Silence is evil!

Lately, I’ve been reading an interesting book entitled “The Great Animal Orchestra,” which takes a look at sound and music as it occurs in the world of wildlife. I passed one interesting anecdote today. We’re often told that “silence is golden” and that distracting background noise stresses us out (indeed, I think I’ve made comments to this effect on this very blog.) But, apparently, pure silence is no picnic. The book’s author states…

Once, while on assignment, I accidentally stumbled across a nearly anechoic location at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. It was the quietest place I’d ever been in the natural world — a remote box canyon with high sandstone walls about a mile in from the river. I had hiked there and set up camp one afternoon. Resting quietly for a moment, I quickly realized that all I could hear was the blood coursing through my veins; a low-level pulsing thud at one of the spectrum and a whine I had never heard before at the other, probably from a nascent case of tinnitus… For a moment, I thought I’d lost my hearing…. After a short period, I became so disoriented by the complete silence that I started to talk and sing to myself and throw rocks at the canyon walls just to hear some kind of sound other than the blood in my head and the growing internal din in my ears. I was being driven insane by the lack of any acoustic cues.

The neurologist Oliver Sacks has noted a related phenomenon. People who go deaf in their ears (as opposed to having some issue with processing sound in their brain) will sometimes suffer from grand audio hallucinations like hearing elaborate and detailed symphonies playing their brain over and over, sometimes nonstop for years. His presumption is that the audio cortex — the part of our brain that processes sound —becomes “bored” from lack of stimulation (due to the nonfunctioning ears) and therefore it creates its own sound.

You might ask, “are the voices telling me to kill also hallucinations?” No, those are real.

5 Responses to “Silence is evil!”


  1. John Saleeby

    “anechoic”? You Leon Panetta Face motherfucker!

  2. Wil

    Yeah, frankly I don’t know what it means either but it was in the text.

  3. John Saleeby

    I’d look it up but I’m really tired from working for the past five days and I’m afraid if I learn something new I’ll go out of my mind.

  4. Wil

    Too late.

  5. John Saleeby

    Very funny, Leon Panetta Face! Very funny!