A friend of mine recently asked an Italian writer who had moved from Italy to the West Coast of Scotland why he had made this rather unusual move. “In Italy,” he replied, “silence is very expensive. In Scotland, it is very cheap.”

Not everyone, by any means, is willing or able to live in a wilderness, however beautiful and romantic, in order to escape noise; yet for those who are sensitive to it, noise is one of the torments of modern life. Short of staying at home in a cork-lined room, it is difficult to avoid it; and while some of it is the price we have to pay for a materially abundant life, much of it is not, but seems to be generated for its own sake.

How difficult it is to find the balm of silence in the modern world was borne in on me the other day in a provincial English city. I was a little early for an appointment and, having work to do, sought a silent place in which to do...


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