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‘Silence’ by Erling Kagge

Erling Kagge, a renowned Norwegian explorer, has ventured into some of the most extraordinary places on Earth, from the North and South poles to the summit of Everest. His book, ‘Silence’, is a compilation of 32 profound reflections on the various facets of silence. These reflections are not just theoretical but are born out of Kagge’s personal encounters with silence, such as the profound stillness he experienced during his solo expedition to the South Pole or the inner calm reminiscent of meditation.

Deep down in the ocean, below the waves and ripples, you can find your internal silence. Standing in the shower, letting the water wash over your head, sitting in front of a crackling fire, swimming across a forest lake or taking a walk over a field: all these can be experiences of perfect stillness too.

The book’s structure of short, self-contained reflections lends the book a slightly unfortunate sense of superficiality, which belies the depth of its insights: many of the ideas are interesting and worthy of deep reflection.

I suspect this book would have been best read one section at a time, allowing reflection and consideration. I didn’t read it like that: I read it in a day. I probably got less out of it than I could have as a result, and this might be a book I dip back into from time to time.

Kagge repeatedly refers to silence as luxurious, an opinion which seems to come up with some regularity in the New York Times. I liked how Kagge expanded this idea, not just pointing out the relationship between access to silence and financial wealth but also encouraging us to see silence as valuable in its own right:

Shutting out the world is not about turning your back on your surroundings, but rather the opposite: it is seeing the world a bit more clearly, staying a course and trying to love your life. Silence in itself is rich. It is exclusive and luxurious. A key to unlock new ways of thinking. I don’t regard it as a renunciation or something spiritual, but rather as a practical resource for living a richer life.

He also talks a couple of times about the value of silence in a relationship, and the pleasure of feeling relaxed enough to sit or walk in silence with those we love most. This felt especially relevant to me; it’s something Wendy and I have often reflected on.

I have already bought Kagge’s follow-up, Walking, and look forward to digging in—in silence!

This post was filed under: What I've Been Reading, .

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