True silence is the rest of the mind; it is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment. ~William Penn
When I was a child, nighttime was one of hearing crickets chirping, frogs croaking, the wind blowing, and sleet or rain, depending on the season, tapping on my bedroom windows, asking to be let in. I drifted into sleep with these comforting sounds of nature as the backdrop. At times, it was nothing more than near silence.
Decades ago, it was common for us to take vacations seeking refuge in moments of calm and quiet. Camping, hiking, lazily lounging on a beach. Sounds of nature during times of no conversation or while falling asleep. We also sought places of quiet to achieve better concentration. The world wasn’t as busy then. Now, all too often, some seem to think we need white noise to drown out the noises of everyday life. Think about that…more noise to drown out noise…more noise to enter a state of rest. This is what is known as white noise. The world of 1001 voices or the world of 20,000 tones being played at the same time…
Besides being ambiguous, what is white noise? According to Robert Grover Brown, it is “a stationary random process having a constant spectral density function.” Ahh, they have defined what it is. Some noise becomes a distraction, so add more types of sounds until your brain arrives at overload, and now you can relax. To me, that seems like a contradiction in logic. It also implies an overloading of noise can provide both focus and block distraction. Whoa…I’m not certain we really need to give up on the sound of silence without a good fight.
What about the chirping crickets, croaking frogs, or the sleet or rain tapping on the window? What about silence?
There are those that have become accustomed to noise as the backdrop to falling asleep and to them silence can be frightening. As a rural country person, I have to ask, frightened of what? Seems to me that the last time I tried to assail slumber land while staying in a city, I had to tire myself to the point of exhaustion before I was able to sleep, due to the constant noise. To me, there was nothing white, calming, or blocking about that crowded din. It was chaos, plain and simple.
Noise is actually an unwanted sound. Subjective, true, yet, to most an annoyance. That is why those subjected to noise often seek sources of white noise. Sources of noise overload to the point they perceive it as blocking the lesser, unbearable noise. A busy, hectic world, filled with unwanted noise, remedied by building upon it until the ears no longer hear it as an annoyance. Well, it certainly isn’t music. It is far from silence. For those of us that still believe silence is golden, than white noise is the opposite. To us, we can add the visualization to the audible. I prefer to call this white sound. Not actually silence, yet pleasing. Relaxing. Music to my ears.
December 2010…listen carefully…white noise…the light sound of snow meeting other fallen snowflakes already on the ground. For me, this is my real white noise…or is it white sound?