“It’s too silent out there,” how many times haven’t we heard that phrase in a movie? Can something be too silent anyway? Does silence really exist outside anechoic chambers? Well, I bet if we had been inside one of those, we would still have heard the silence itself. Or at least what we perceive as silence, because no matter what you do, there are still those thoughts going on inside your head. So, can a chamber like that truly be silent if we hear our own thoughts, even if they’re something highly subjective? I don’t think so, noise is noise, no matter where it comes from.

There have been times in my life when the noise in my head was unbearable. Every time I lay down to rest or sleep, I could hear that voice (my own, by the way), struggling its way through past and current experiences, emotions, opinions, and information — to keep it simple, existence in general. Take it or leave it, joy and sadness — like a loop going on over and over again. It happens from time to time nowadays; I get stuck in a loop, often when I’ve done something wrong, or at least think so, and it won’t end until I manage to fall asleep from pure exhaustion. If I’m lucky, it’s not there in the morning, and I can look at the experience with forgiving eyes and ears.

I read somewhere that social animals, including humans, always make noises to stay in contact, even if those noises are sometimes downright meaningless in terms of what they want to say. It’s like a constant Morse code, but with nonsense instead of interpretable messages. One example is humming, something many humans deal with. Sure, it can be a confirmation of sorts, but it’s not needed in conversations if one just listens. It’s like we get nervous when the person we speak to responds with silence instead of humming and short words like yes or no. We feel mentally penetrated, almost threatened by the silence. We, as social animals (I’m generalizing a bit with this “we” thing), need confirmation instead of accepting that silence by itself can be a strong indicator of someone being focused, someone who actually listens.

If we’re social animals, the sounds we make and listen to aren’t just “sounds”; it’s communication in general. Twitter, Facebook, Bluesky, TikTok, Mastodon, Threads — they’re all places for sounds, regardless of whether they make a sound or not. These are places where we’re afraid to be silent or be met by silence, and therefore engage in both constructive and destructive communications just to not let the voices inside, the uncertainty of existence, take over. I haven’t let go of social media yet, and I do love to both appear in and listen to podcasts — the exchange of information and knowledge can be so rewarding. But I also feel the urge to be alone after being too social. I describe it as exhaustion, an exhaustion of too many sounds, too much talk, too many experiences, big and small, too much of everything.

It seems like I’m never coming to the point of this text and just rambling on about silence and the lack of it. But what I want to say is this: appreciate silence. Be quiet. Take a walk in nature without headphones, take a walk alone, take a walk with yourself. In my research, which basically focuses only on high strangeness in Sweden, I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to experience something depends on three things: wintertime, countryside, and… silence. There we have it again. Yay. In all honesty, most of the cases I’ve written about deal with these three components. It’s like the silence in combination with the environment (and possibly the season) triggers experiences — normal or paranormal. I believe it was Krishnamurti who once said that meditation should be constant; it’s a state of mind more than sitting in a yoga pose at sunset somewhere. From my experience, this state of mind can come to us all if we just shut up for a while. I can guarantee you that if you’re in the woods alone or being silent together with someone, you will have some kind of experience. Animals will show up, you’ll find strange places, odd sounds can be heard — and maybe, if you’re tuned in to the liminal space that is silence and countryside, you’ll experience something out of the ordinary.

Yeah, this is, of course, not surprising — the noises we humans make when talking will disturb the surroundings, and having your head in a sweaty embrace by a pair of headphones will distract you from what’s going on around you. That’s obvious, and there might be nothing more to it. But that nothingness is so easy to work with. Not talking or listening will set your eyes and ears on fire. You will notice more details; you will hear stuff you’ve never heard before, and you will have encounters you never even dreamed of.

I dare you not to talk
I dare you to be silent in the presence of forests, fields, and water.
I dare you to enter the liminal space of silence.

Fred Andersson is a Swedish story producer, researcher and writer with over twenty years of experience in commercial television and the author of fourbooks. He lives in Märsta, outside Stockholm, with his photographer husband Grzegorz and two overly active cats. Join him on Twitter and Instagram.

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Fred Andersson is a Swedish story producer, researcher and writer with over twenty years of experience in commercial television and the author of three books. He lives in Märsta, outside Stockholm, with his photographer husband Grzegorz and two overly active cats.