Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Book Review: In Pursuit of Silence by George Prochnik - Non-fiction

The author, George Prochnik, in this non-fiction entitled In Pursuit of Silence writes about noise pollution. Through his quest for silence he discovers many aspects of noise and silence. There are subtle sounds that we accept and adopt in our lifestyle. Any form of noise creates anxiety in our being. How loud does it have to be before we decide that it is noise?

Prochnik searches out silence. He indicates that it has a relationship with the holy, peace and contemplation. Then he questions this notion on his visit to the Friends’ meeting at the Quakers. He notices that silence is not individual but a collective among the Friends present at the meeting. Some claim that when in silence they are speaking the language of the soul. Prochnik interviewed an astronaut who spoke of silence in space while on a space walk and what was more dramatic was the brightness of the stars in space. The notion of silence can be considered by some as a pause or a break. Research indicates that those who meditate have brains that function more efficiently than those who do not meditate.

Prochnik spoke to audiologists who told of exposure to noise can cause loss of hearing. He went in pursuit of noise to determine the pursuit of silence; he spent time in restaurants, shopping malls, dance halls, neighbourhoods and construction sites. He visits a monastery where they practise silence. During this time, the author claims that in practising silence he could almost hear his thoughts jump out of him. In his words:. “silence made everything resonate.” The Trappist Monks use silence as their mother tongue. To be silent is to withdraw from the world and engage in mental cleansing.

The author researches the technicality of hearing and outlines the purpose of making noise; animals and birds make noise as a weapon; humans project their voice to be heard or to gain power over others. Prochnik discusses the use of music in every facet of our lives; be it in the privacy of ourselves, at home or in public spaces. He outlines the design of parks as a respite from the city noises and their advantages for people who live and work in the city. Prochnik’s conclusions are that we are surrounded by noise and as individuals we ought to determine the level of noise we can tolerate to enable us to have a healthy lifestyle.

In Pursuit of Silence is a thoroughly researched topic by George Prochnik who delivers his research in an easy to understand format that takes the reader on a journey to a variety of places to find silence; its relevance and its meaning.

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