march 29/3 MILES

48 degrees
mississippi river road path

Today I decided I wanted to listen to music and run faster. So I did. Splits: 8’38”, 8’22”, 8’08”. Negative splits are always nice. It felt difficult but not undoable. The amount of effort I seemed to be putting in made me think my splits would be even faster. Oh well. Still felt great to fly down the path, working hard but knowing, after months of training, that my body could handle it. That joyful feeling of flight is my goal, not a fast time.

3 ruminations on silence

one: Lately I’ve been running without headphones more, listening to my breathing and the sounds around me. I’ve also been trying to allow for silence in my running. To not shut everything out with a playlist or a podcast. I like it. I like listening to the crunch of my feet on the path and how that sound changes depending on the condition of the path. I like picking out the different bird sounds, even as I can’t identify them, as I’m running above the river. I like being able to hear people greet me and to respond with a “hello” or “good morning”. And I like listening to the wind and coming up with words to describe its sound, like “sizzle” or “static on a tv.”

two: Read an article this morning about how Minnesotans are listening to more audiobooks lately, partly because of they’re more accessible, but also because their quality is higher. The article ends by speculating on the dangers of listening too much to audiobooks:

The pull of audio content is so strong that fans are beginning to wonder if having an easily accessible stream of stories is crowding out something vital: silence.

“We never want to do nothing and just think about life,” said Ubl. “If you study creativity you know inspiration comes when you allow your brain to turn off. Much can be found in the world of quiet but we’re uncomfortable there,” she said, “and we are missing something important.”

I agree with what Ubl says, but that’s not the main reason I’m making note of her words. Her quote is the final paragraph of the article. Another one of her quotes is used towards the beginning:

“I like the escapism, but I need the learning,” said Ubl, 28, research director for the generational consulting firm Bridgeworks. “I feel like I’m wasting time when there’s any moment of my day when I’m not learning.”

I imagine that this contradiction in her thought was, at least partly, taken out of context. It’s not explained, or even pointed out, in the article. But I think there’s more going on here. This contradiction exists for a lot of us. A need to always be doing! and learning! and engaging! even as we ache for silence. Many people are scared of that ache. Others don’t have time for it. I want to find some balance, where the need to engage and the ache for silence can be met beside each other.

three: I’m curious about silence. I decided to begin work on a poem about it with lots of questions. At this point I’ve only just started it. I’m using it to explore silence and to play with the tension between technology and nature that seems to saturate discussions about the need for silence.

What is silence?
Is it the absence of noise?
The shutting down of devices? Ideas? Expectations of what you should be doing?

What is silence?
Is it the abundance of sounds
that we usually fail to hear? That we often refuse to listen to? That don’t require a wifi signal?

Why is silence
so fragile, easily broken by the innocent rustling of the leaves or the oblivious ramblings of a bluetooth user?

Why is silence
so deafening, amplified by the absence of noise or the aftershocks triggered by years of exposure to LOUD music? LOUD thoughts? LOUD demands?

How is silence
ever possible when the hum of the city rumbles beneath us, a constant reminder of what has been done, is being done, will be done?

How is silence
ever comforting when it shuts out our access to inspirational podcasts and forces us to confront the beliefs about ourselves that we work hard to conceal?