Silence: In The Age of Noise

by Erling Kagge

AUGUST 2019 - BOOK OF THE MONTH FOR AA PLUS


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INTRODUCTION:
Because we are discussing about loneliness this month, I thought it's apt that we read Erling Kagge's book on Silence. Kagge is a Norwegian explorer, lawyer, art collector and entrepreneur, and the first person to complete the "Three Poles Challenge"! During his sole journey to the far ends of this world, he was forced to confront Silence as there was literally NO LIVING BEING around him for 3 months. Take a deep breath, and prepare to submerge yourself in Silence. Your own South Pole is out there, somewhere.


Discussion #1 - Too scared to be alone
by Aida Azlin

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I'm excited to share with you snippets from his book that I found inspiring + thought-provoking, starting from this one:

I avoid being present in my own life. Instead I busy myself with this or that, avoiding the silence, living through the new task at hand. I send text messages, put on sime music, listen to the radio, or allow my thoughts to flit about, rather than holding still and shutting out the world for a single minute. There is a fear in getting to know ourselves better. There is a whiff of cowardice whenever I try to avoid that.

OMG - I felt that guys. There was a period of time in my life where I'd do anything to not be alone, and on hindsight, in doing so, it stopped me from giving myself a chance to get to know my own self! And it's true what the writer said - it's because I'm a coward. I was too scared to be alone and that fear stopped me from getting to know I am, and stopped me from the beginning my own self-growth journey!

Your turn - what are your thoughts about the excerpt I just shared?


Discussion #2 - ‘The Quieter I become’
by Ida Ali

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Here’s some truth about Silence that Aida and I loved from the book:

I had no radio contact, nor did I see a single living creature for 50 days. I did nothing but ski south each day. Even when I got angry, about a broken binding or because I nearly slipped into a crevasse, I did not curse. Lashing out brings you down and makes a bad mood worse. That’s why I never swear on expeditions.

At home there’s always a car passing, a telephone ringing, pinging or buzzing, someone talking, whispering or yelling. There are so many noises that we barely hear them all. Here it was different. Nature spoke to me in the guise of silence. The quieter I become, the more I heard.

I love that he credited nature with the solitude that he’a embracing. How many times do we run to nature every time the world gets a little too noisy?

His words also taught me that I should talk less and listen more. To give my thoughts and emotions time to process and settle. To listen to others without interrupting them. To be of benefit to others in my silence, just like nature is to me.

What do you think about the excerpt above?


Discussion #3 - ‘Fear of Missing Out’
by Ida Ali

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Salam ladies, have you heard of FOMO - Fear of Missing Out?

It is a very real phenomenon where one may feel that one is missing out on important things that others may be experiencing; often exacerbated by postings on social media sites. Hence, for someone who struggles with FOMO, solitude may be an uncomfortable thing to do.

This quote in page 35 of the book, however, encourages us to purposely 'miss out':

“Shutting out the world is not about turning your back on surroundings, but rather the opposite: it is seeing the world a bit more clearly, staying a course and trying to love your life.”

When we choose to shut out from the world to go into our own company, we can put our thoughts in perspective so as to gain clarity on the important things in life. In solitude, we can strengthen our self-identity, so that we can learn to be gentle to ourselves.

Question: Have you ever felt like you are missing out on something important, when you disconnect from the world? How did you eventually get over the fear / anxiety?


Discussion #4 - Temptations of Loneliness
by Aida Azlin

 
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I wanted to share with you an excerpt from Pg 49 of our B.O.T.M which really reminds me of Ustaz Mizi's 3rd Lesson on "Temptations of Loneliness"!

Kagge writes:

In a joint study from the University of Virginia and Harvard, scientists left individuals alone in a room for 6-15 minutes, without music, reading material, the chance to write or their smartphones. They were left solely on their own thoughts. ... The scientists then took the study one step further, in order to see whether the participants would rather do something unpleasant, such as receive an electrical shock, than sit in silence once again. Nearly half of the subjects eventually pushed on the button to administer an electrical shock in order to reduce their silent time. One of them even pushed the electric shock button 190 times!

OMG WHAT. When I read that part, I was like, "if we are not aware of the state of our hearts and minds, we will be tempted to do irrational things when we are lonely! Like pushing the electric shock button just to numb or run away from the feeling of loneliness!"

I pray that may Allah always guide us and give us a sense of rationality and reason to go through whatever difficulties we may face in this life. And may the remembrance of Him be like a lifebuoy for us whenever loneliness sweeps in like a typhoon.

Ladies, if you are in need of anyone, we are all here ok! If you have a minute, you can drop a comment here with whatever dua you want us to help you make, and In Sha Allah, we as a community will send prayers your way!


Discussion #5 - ‘Being accessible’
by Ida Ali

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Salam ladies, today's book club takeaway is from Page 50 of the Silence: In the Age of Noise. The author shared the following:

When you’ve invested a lot of time in being accessible and keeping up with what’s happening, it’s easy to conclude that it all has a certain value, even if what you have done might not be that important.

Sometimes our over-exposure to external noise like the media, politics, gossips, debates etc. can cloud our own human perception. We tend to overthink simple things instead of just appreciating it for its simplicity. We debate with ourselves if we need to post a certain picture/status.

The solution is in the next page.

Silence is about getting inside what you are doing. Experiencing rather than over-thinking. Allowing each moment to be big enough. Not living through other people and other things. Shutting out the world and fashioning your own silence whenever you run, cook food, study, chat, work, think of a new idea, read or dance.

What did you think of these sharing by the author? Have you ever had to delete a status/post because you realise it's actually not so significant to post?


Discussion #6 - ‘The best things in life are sometimes free’
by Ida Ali

Happy Monday ladies! Hope you had a great weekend! Did you manage to spend sometime by yourself? I did and today’s excerpt from Page 72 of the book summarise my weekend aptly!


It says,

“The best things in life are sometimes free. The silence I have in mind may be found wherever you are, if you pay attention, inside your mind, and is without cost. You don’t have to go to Sri Lanka: you can experience it in your bathtub.”


I didn’t spend time at the bathtub hehe, but I did spend it at the beach, reading! The wind was blowing and the waves were crashing, but that was al it take for me to be present, mindful and feel calm alhamdulillah ala kulli haal! Best of all, the experience is FREE!

What about you? What FREE activity did you do the past weekend that calms your mind and heart?


Discussion #7 - ‘Finding the Right Direction’
by Aida Azlin

Salam ladies, we are almost nearing the end of the book, but here's one of my favourite parts from it.

When you end up driving in the wrong direction, you are forced to stop, check the GPS, turn down the music and ask others in the car to quiet down just so you can get some clarity in your head.

This enables you to gather your thoughts about the one thing that holds any meaning in that one precise moment: finding the right direction.

Subhan'Allah. How true!

If you drive, and you get lost sometimes, you do need a moment of silence just to get yourself together and try to find the way out, and this is so, so, so telling of how we need silence to find the right directions, to figure things out, to find whatever answer we are looking for!

This quote reminds me of one night when I couldn't sleep because I was just so overwhelmed with thoughts, so I went on a drive, late at night, the roads were empty, and it was just the silence, me and Him. I shot a video of that night too, for memory sake. <3

What do you ladies do when you need to find clarity? Do you quiet your environment down to?


Discussion #8 - ‘Full Emptiness’
by Aida Azlin

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Salam ladies! We are almost at the end of the book and here's a snippet from Chapter 27 that speaks out to me.

"Chaos. That is the word that Abramovic uses when describing what she experienced in the desert. Despite the fact that everything was completely quiet around her, her head was flooded with disconnected thoughts. She struggled to find calm, even in the midst of silence. Her memories and thoughts jostled for her attention. It seemed like an empty emptiness, while the goal is to experience a full emptiness, she says.

I love how Marina Abramovic, the artist, discerns between "empty emptiness" and "full emptiness" because this distinction is what highlights what I believe would be "productivity in silence" VS "boredom or chaos in silence".

She then explained that the cause for her "empty emptiness" is because she was not mindful of the present, and that her thoughts were mainly a tussle or a fight between the past or the future. The solution, is then, to be present, and to fully focus on the present.

This is something that I constantly have to remind myself when I pray or meditate or when I sit still in silence - that in order to have a "full emptiness" and "productivity in silence", the #1 rule is to breathe, and come back to the present. If I cant even do that, then all is lost.

Now tell me ladies. What's the one word that describes your present moment? Mine will be: relieved.


Final Discussion - ‘The most important book’
by Ida Ali

 
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Since we are approaching Muharram in a few days, I thought these words from the second last chapter of the book fits with the theme of new beginnings through silence:

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.

In getting to know yourself and bettering yourself, remember that it is the process and growth that is more important. Kagge seems to agree too in page 126, when he finally reached South Pole after fifty days of expedition:

It was more difficult to start talking again than it had been to get up early all of those fifty mornings. Being on the journey is almost always more satisfying than reaching the goal. We prefer the hunt for the rabbit over its capture.

Salam Maal Hijrah to all of you! May you continue to strive in your pursuit of God's Light in this new year and may you bloom beautifully in your journey Amin!

Are you inspired by these words by Kagge? Share with us your plans for the new year too!