Gordon Hempton says that silence is an endangered species. He’s an acoustic ecologist — a collector of sound all over the world. He defines real quiet as presence — not an absence of sound, but an absence of noise. The Earth as Gordon Hempton knows it is a “solar-powered jukebox.” Quiet is a “think tank of the soul.” We take in the world through his ears.
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Unedited Interview: Gordon Hempton
Mr. Hempton: Well, when you really listen, when you really keep your mind open and listening to another person — and by the way, I highly recommend that if a person wants to increase their ability to understand another person that they start out listening to nature because you’re totally uninvested in the outcome of nature. You can just take it all in, all the expressions. And isn’t it wonderful that, when a bird sings, that we do hear it as music? The bird doesn’t sing for our benefit. So there’s a lot of joy in that listening, and when we become better listeners to nature, we also become better listeners to each other so that, when another person is speaking with you, you don’t have to search for what you want them to say. You can, you know, dare to risk what they really are trying to say and, you know, ask them too: Is this really what you’re saying? And feel your own emotional response as they talk about risky subjects like how it is being a parent in the world that it is today.