I think something’s gone really wrong in my brain when it comes to enjoying having people and life around me, and still appreciating quiet and silence to the extent that I cannot live without them. Having been born and raised in the Finnish countryside I’m used to having an audible silence descend upon my good night’s sleep in the evenings. In our new home in Helsinki the effect is very much the same – just a distant hum of the city in the background – and I have to admit I love it.
However, every time I walk out the door, I’m slightly disappointed by the absence of people, cars, bikes and urban troubadours who can only play that one damn song with their saxophone and are so lazy that for the three months that they stand playing outside your balcony, they cannot make an effort to learn at least one more song… Even for example Brother John or Mary Had a Little Lamb. Anything?! I think I’ve come to the age when you feel angry that you cannot have everything, including noisy and quiet at the same time. Who would have guessed that this is how your life turns out!
But seriously speaking, research shows that chronic noise is very bad for the brain: “Numerous studies now show that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills and have lower reading scores.” Read more here. I do not find this result very surprising, because it is extremely difficult for me to concentrate, learn or understand new things in a noisy environment, not to mention how it can mess up your sleep. Noise and sounds just get my attention immediately and it’s a struggle to block them off. I have earlier thought that kids do not mind noise as much as adults, but the first weeks when I took my girl to the daycare and when I picked her up and asked how your day was, she’d respond: “Don’t talk to me, let’s be really, really quiet!” We are all of course a little different in this respect (too), as my husband can have music on, watching football while reading.
What I find very interesting is that we also know that noise and sounds do not only travel from your ear to your brain, but the other way as well: from your brain to your ear. Because of this when you switch off sounds completely, you can still hear… what your brain wants you to hear. Spooky, right? Read more (intelligent comments) here. Whatever amount of silence you need, I think we all need it sometimes, so wherever you are, take a moment to find a quiet corner, sit down and listen. Or you could also hop on a plane and come and listen to what your brain wants you to hear in the land of silence and quiet called Finland. We have a lot of silence here: inside the amazingly well isolated houses, in the countryside, in the forests, in the parks, between people. 😉 And whatever you may think, I say there is a lot of beauty in that abundance of quiet.