Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sound and silence audiologist from New York [went] in the what was at that point one of the most remote parts of the world, a section of Sudan 650 miles south west of Khartoum where a tribe of people known as the Mabaans lived who had none of the exposures to the sonic assaults that we do in cities today. He discovered that among the Mabaan the majority of people who were 70 years old heard as well as 20-year-olds did in New York and that two Mabaans facing in opposite directions 100 yards apart could speak in a very moderate, even low voice, and hear each other perfectly.
-- George Prochnik talking to Natasha Mitchell.

My first reaction to this had been that it was a bit precious:
There's that beautiful line from Thoreau, that silence has various depths of fertility, like soil. I felt again and again when I was traveling how each one of these different microclimates of silence, a pocket park or a monastery or a Zen garden or a neurobiology laboratory, had such a different texture to it.
But the conversation with Mitchell changed my mind.

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