Balance September 2017 - 31

H E S AY S

NIHAL
Off the record:

'Hello darkness, my old friend' as Paul Simon once had it. Nihal Arthanayake
learns to appreciate the sound of silence thanks to the wisdom of a Native American
photography by WI LL I REL A ND

R

ecently, I interviewed a man called
Kent Nerburn, author of the truly
extraordinary Neither Wolf Nor
Dog (£10.99, Canongate), in which a Native
American recounts his life. It's an unorthodox
memoir, full of humour, candour and insight.
In one of the chapters, the main protagonist
berates the non-Native American narrator
about silence. He makes the point that we
in the West like to fill silence, in much the
same way as we like to dominate the landscape
with roads and buildings. He spoke of how, in
nature, animals listen and learn by observing
and absorbing rather than by keeping the
world turning with noise.
Since that interview I have started to think
a lot about my relationship with silence. I say
'relationship' because silence has a power,
the power to overwhelm and unsettle, but
also the ability to calm and bring tranquility
to a troubled mind. As a child growing up
on the outskirts of a village, silence meant
loneliness and isolation. Silence was symbolic
of ostracism; elsewhere other young people
were enveloped in happiness and human
interaction. Our living room let in very little
evening light and I remember staring out
of that window as fields stretched out and
cursing the fact that we lived there.

GROOMING: RICHARD HARVEY

EMBRACING SILENCE
Those early secondary school years had a
lasting effect on me. Perhaps that's why I
became so obsessed with music. Having the
radio on, then taping music from the radio,
then listening to those tapes on headphones
in bed meant the silence was kept at bay.
And filling the silence is all I have done
since. I went from being an MC to being a
journalist, from journalist to publicist and from
there to being a broadcaster. My profession
involves filling your silence. I am invited

every day to draw words onto a blank space,
because the blank space is uncomfortable
to look at. The headphones have become an
evolutionary tool, reinforcing the idea that
the quiet is something to be dominated. The
radio may serve no other purpose than to
keep you connected to the world and there
is nothing wrong with that. But learning to
embrace silence is something I have only
started to think of since reading that book
- to understand the value of it, especially in
the city. The distant sirens, the audible but
indecipherable snippets of post-bar revelry
and the drone of traffic all help to fill the void.

Share your
thoughts
with me
@edibow and
@BalanceLDN

JUST SAY NOTHING
Even now, as I write this column, lying
supine on my sofa, I have nothing around me
but the mild static of far-off traffic and the
heavy breathing of my dog in another room.
At night, I now like to sleep with a window
open, so I hear a soothing hum. It may not
be absolute silence, but at least it is the
environmental mute button switched on.
We all need to learn to love silence.
Wherever you go today, and whatever
you do, you should find some time
to say nothing, in a place with
minimal sound intrusion and
learn to enjoy it. That said, I
have to go now as my dog has
sensed foxes in the back
garden and is making one
I WENT
hell of a racket. B
Nihal hosts Afternoon
Edition on BBC Radio 5
Live, 1pm-4pm, Monday
to Thursday, and the
Asian Network's
Big Debate from
10am-1pm on Friday.

September 2017 BA LA N CE

FROM BEING AN
MC TO BEING A JOURNALIST,
FROM JOURNALIST TO
PUBLICIST AND FROM THERE
TO BEING A BROADCASTER.
MY PROFESSION INVOLVES
FILLING YOUR SILENCE

31



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Balance September 2017

Balance September 2017 - 1
Balance September 2017 - 2
Balance September 2017 - 3
Balance September 2017 - 4
Balance September 2017 - 5
Balance September 2017 - 6
Balance September 2017 - 7
Balance September 2017 - 8
Balance September 2017 - 9
Balance September 2017 - 10
Balance September 2017 - 11
Balance September 2017 - 12
Balance September 2017 - 13
Balance September 2017 - 14
Balance September 2017 - 15
Balance September 2017 - 16
Balance September 2017 - 17
Balance September 2017 - 18
Balance September 2017 - 19
Balance September 2017 - 20
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Balance September 2017 - 25
Balance September 2017 - 26
Balance September 2017 - 27
Balance September 2017 - 28
Balance September 2017 - 29
Balance September 2017 - 30
Balance September 2017 - 31
Balance September 2017 - 32
Balance September 2017 - 33
Balance September 2017 - 34
Balance September 2017 - 35
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