Review - Silence: In the Age of Noise by Erling Kagge

Monday, 9 December 2019

Silence: In the Age of Noise by Erling Kagge
Released: 15th October 2018
Published by: Penguin
Genre: Non-fiction
Source: Bought
Pages: 160
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
From the Norwegian explorer, a stunning meditation on the power of silence and how to shut out the world.

Behind a cacophony of traffic noise, iPhone alerts and our ever-spinning thoughts, an elusive notion - silence - lies in wait. But what really is silence? Where can it be found? And why is it more important now than ever?

Erling Kagge, the Norwegian adventurer and polymath, once spent fifty days walking solo in Antarctica with a broken radio. In this meditative, charming and surprisingly powerful book, he explores the power of silence and the importance of shutting out the world. Whether you're in deep wilderness, taking a shower or on the dance floor, you can experience perfect stillness if you know where to look. And from it grows self-knowledge, gratitude, wonder and much more.

Take a deep breath, and prepare to submerge yourself in Silence. Your own South Pole is out there, somewhere.
Silence is about rediscovering, through pausing, the things that bring us joy.

Reading this book was a breath of fresh air in a world that never stands still. This unassuming title was a serendipitous find in the art gallery shop, and since I can't say I've ever read anything by a Norwegian explorer I thought it would be a good place to start. What I didn't know then was that it would turn into one of my absolute favourite books of the year. What Kagge proves through these mini-essays and insights is that it doesn't always have to take a weighty tome to explore deep reflections on life - just a few fitting references to philosophers, a scattering of personal anecdotes and a warm tone that brings its own sense of calm to the whole piece.

Is it possible to both be present in the world and not present at the same time? I think it is. To me, those brief moments when I dwell on the horizon and am captivated by my surroundings, or when I do nothing more than study a rock with green moss and find myself unable to pull away, or else when I simply hold a child in my arms, are the greatest. Time suddenly stops and I am simultaneously present and completely distant. All at once, a brief moment can seem like an eternity. 

As Kagge himself remarks at one point, who would have thought there would be so much to say about something as basic as 'silence'? What I got out of the book in its entirety, from reflections on the author's explorations in the stark desolation of the Antarctic, to life around the dinner table with his three daughters, is the importance of appreciating the small things. It sounds easy enough, and maybe even somewhat trite; yet when you think about it, it's the 'timeless' moments which can bring the greatest joy and wonder. Simply put, 'Life is long, if we listen to ourselves often enough, and look up.' It's amazing to reflect on how little time we make to truly block out all the other distractions, notifications and chatter and just sit quietly with our own thoughts - or get outside in nature and appreciate the beauty of it all.

Allow the world to vanish when you go into it.
To listen is to search for new opportunities, to seek fresh challenges. The most important book you can read is the one about yourself. It is open. I've started to understand why I was so fascinated as a small boy by the snail who carries his house on his back. We can also carry our houses - everything we have - within us. 

I tabbed so many sections of this book as I was reading, but the quote above has to be my favourite..."The most important book you can read is the one about yourself." Being the author of your own life story is a gift we all have, and maybe it takes reading something like this to realise just how significant that is. One thing's for sure, this book is both thought provoking and memorable - perfect for revisiting when you're looking for a slice of solitude amidst an ever-evolving hectic schedule.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Almost anyone will find something to relate to in Silence. Erling Kagge is definitely onto something with this eloquent work that allows for the reader to experience moments where 'the world is shut out for a moment, and an inner peace and silence takes over.' For me, it's moments like that which make everything worthwhile. 

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