It seems that the evidence for the benefits of silence continues to mount these days. Studies have demonstrated that silent meditation improves its practitioner's ability to concentrate. Teachers who introduce silence into classrooms report that it fosters learning and reflection among the students.
Working adults and professionals involved with conflict resolution have found that by incorporating times of silence into negotiations they were able to foster empathy that inspires a peaceable end to disputes. [ Maybe this is not workable in tense environment, such as manufacturing industry or shipyards where they are rush for time and schedule and the pressing need to deliver on time the construction project and this led to intense argument and many excuses for delay or work stoppages,etc]
The old idea of quiet zones around hospitals has found new validation in studies linking silence and healing.
If you have the means, you buy your luxury silence in the form of spa time, or products like quiet vacuums, which are always more expensive than their roaring bargain cousins. The affluent pay for boutique silence because, like silk on the flesh and wine on the palate, silence can kindle a sensory delight.
Unfortunately, in a world of diminishing natural retreats and amplifying electronic escapes, this delight is in ever shorter supply. The days when Thoreau could write of silence as 'a universal refuge' and 'inviolable asylum' are gone.
With all our gadgetry punching up the volume at home, in entertainment zones and even places of worship, young people today often lack any haven for quiet. These problems are everywhere, but can be especially acute in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
Too many people think of silence only in terms of 'being silenced', of suppressing truth. In consequence, silence itself is now often suppressed.
People who appreciate the value of silence have, by and large, done a poor job of sharing their understanding, let alone making silence more accessible. Yet silence can be nourished in our larger spaces not just by way of an inward journey that most people lack the tools to embark upon, but via education and architecture.
Some of the imaginative work is being done today by urban planners involved with soundscaping. It is easier to create oases of quiet - by, for example, creating common areas in the rear facades of buildings with plantings that absorb sound - than it is to lower the volume of a larger area by even a few decibels.
And having access to these green oases can greatly enhance quality of life. A recent Swedish study found that even people who live in loud neighbourhoods report a 50 per cent drop in their general noise annoyance levels if residential buildings have a quiet side. These modest sanctuaries can provide at least a taste of silence, which is then recognised not to be silence at all, but the sounds of the larger world we inhabit: birdsong and footsteps, water, voices and wind.
Even a little bit of silence can create a sense of connection with our environment that diminishes alienation, and prompts a desire to discover more quiet.