Stephen West, on episode #160 of the podcast Philosophize This!, talks about silence in terms of meaning and systems of values. He discusses the book The Lily of the Field and the Bird of the Air by Søren Kierkegaard, the 19th-century philosopher, which denotes some traits that we must follow to create meaning, starting with silence, obedience and joy. Stephen states that, in our daily lives, we are constantly immersed in noise. On our commute, at work, at university, and at home, there is always some sort of background chatter, and not just in the literal sense. We are often distracted by our phones and by our to-do lists, and always concerned about the next task, assignment, or promotion. But somewhere beyond this realm of habitual concern is the opposite of thinking: silence.
But somewhere beyond this realm of habitual concern is the opposite of thinking: silence.
This week’s theme was intended to capture a moment of that precious, rare silence. But what does the city have to do with it? I believe there is some nuance to this ‘city silence’ combination. Yes, silence implies the absence of communication, but it also help us listen to our environment, enter into communion with other creatures, people, and shared spaces, such as a city. In this sense, ‘city silence’ is both an egocentric and egoless concept.
Let us come back to photography. Callum represents this silence in an incredibly eloquent manner. High Street Kensington is a very touristy and extremely busy area in London, and we always expect people to buzz around the main tube station moving to and fro. This photo, however, captures a singular moment when all is silent, the trains are running but nobody is on them. It gives us a moment of pause from the noise of rush hour and the time to understand our own internal silence that can only be acknowledged by simply looking, and not thinking nor acting.
Luckily for us, Callum has sacrificed their own moment of silent reflection to take this picture and show us this scene. The banality of it hits us, in the same way that a completely silent room, or utterly deserted field does. We feel both a part of the empty city scene and completely abstracted from it, just like the ‘city silence’ theme suggests, our ego simply existing amidst the silence.
This week take a nice deep breath and don’t think too hard. Don’t even think about this photo, just look.