Silence as a value

Matthew B. Crawford writes on The Cost of Paying Attention:

The benefits of silence are off the books. They are not measured in the gross domestic product, yet the availability of silence surely contributes to creativity and innovation. They do not show up explicitly in social statistics such as level of educational achievement, yet one consumes a great deal of silence in the course of becoming educated. …

Silence is now offered as a luxury good. In the business-class lounge at Charles de Gaulle Airport, I heard only the occasional tinkling of a spoon against china. I saw no advertisements on the walls. This silence, more than any other feature, is what makes it feel genuinely luxurious. When you step inside and the automatic doors whoosh shut behind you, the difference is nearly tactile, like slipping out of haircloth into satin. Your brow unfurrows, your neck muscles relax; after 20 minutes you no longer feel exhausted.

Outside, in the peon section, is the usual airport cacophony. Because we have allowed our attention to be monetized, if you want yours back you’re going to have to pay for it.

I think the name “attentional commons” is completely unattractive. But the concept of creating spaces in our communities that defeat distraction and the market-driven impulse to capture every waking moment is excellent. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a few years.

Specifically, I sketched out a concept for a physical membership club that would cultivate relationships among members for the purpose of strengthening the community. No screens allowed. No televisions.

Implementing that in State College is a question mark, but hopefully something like it can happen there or elsewhere and become a model for other places.

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