The Luxury of Silence

cal muir 3I read a fascinating article this weekend on the cost of paying attention. In the New York Times opinion piece (find it here), Matthew Crawford argues that the advertising that is plastered everywhere and on everything these days is eating up our attention, which he argues is a valuable “resource” similar to air or water. If we only have so much attention, and the advertising all around us demands a portion of it, what are we not able to notice?

It is a complicated issue, especially in the age of so much “free” media, where our attention has been monetized and the only cost is to watch a short video or put up with sidebar ads. Dealing with ads has made so much amazing content available (more than I could ever read and watch, so many interesting blogs – the riches!), but maybe we are paying in other ways. Says Crawford, “in the process, we’ve sacrificed silence — the condition of not being addressed. And just as clean air makes it possible to breathe, silence makes it possible to think.”

Crawford notes that silence is more often found in luxury spaces, such as the business class lounge in the airport, but we all need some time when we are not being addressed. Maybe one reason a walk in the woods feels so rejuvenating is because nothing is shouting out to us to “look! notice! want! buy!” but instead we are free to wander, notice, and think on our own.

Image Credit: Laura Chassaigne (taken in the gorgeous Muir Woods near SF)

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