... is too much silence?

In Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth, Milo encounters the Soundkeeper. Because so many people misued (and over-used) the sounds she provided the valley over which she governed, she withdrew all the sounds from use and made it into a valley of silence. Milo's visit was ... let's call it an ear-opener:
Milo walked slowly down the long hallway and into the little room where the Soundkeeper sat listening intently to an enormous radio set, whose switches, dials, knobs, meters, and speaker covered one whole wll, and which at the moment was playing nothing.

"Isn't that lovely?" she signed. "It's my favorite program - fifteen minutes of silence - and after that there's a half hour of quiet and then an interlude of lull. Why, did you know that there are almost as many kids of stillness as there are sounds? But, adly enough, no one pays any attention to them these days.

"Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn?" she inquired. "Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven't the answer to a question you've been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause in a roomful of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you're all alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful, if you listen carefully."

As she spoke, the thousands of little bells and chimes which covered her from head to toe tinkled softly and, as if in reply, the telephone began to ring, too.

"For someone who loves silence, she certainly talks a great deal," thought Milo.

"At one time I was able to listen to any sound made any place at any time," the Soundkeepe remarked, pointing toward the radio wall, "but now I merely ---"

"Pardon me," interrupted Milo as the phone continued to ring, "but aren't you going to answer it?"

"Oh no, not in the middle of the program," she replied, and turned the silence up a little louder.

"But it may be important," insisted Milo.

"Not at all," she assured him; "it's only me. It gets so lonely arond here, with no sounds to distribute or collect, that I call myself seven or eight times a day just to see how I am."

I admit to being a bit surprised that this is apparently only the second time that I've referred to The Phantom Tollbooth in these pages. Such a great book deserves to be quoted more often.

Go to: ... it rings for a ride, or
Go to: Constantly Connected