• www.inkwellwriters.ie

The Sounds of Silence by Doreen Finn

Writing.ie | Magazine | General Fiction

By Doreen Finn

Silence is many things.  We take it for granted, assume that it will always be the backdrop whenever we finish what it is we are doing.  Watching television, listening to music, talking to each other.  Playing instruments, fiddling with our phones, allowing hours to dwindle away to nothing while surfing the web.  We fill the background to our days with noise.  Radios, CDs, chatter.  Silence, it appears, might be something that we fear.  It forces us to face ourselves, to look inside our own minds and hearts, and that is not something that most of us do with ease.  Meditation, prayer, contemplation are extensions of the kinds of silence that we require in order to bring ourselves to our full potential as human beings.

What has happened to hush?  Whether we like to admit it or not, we need quiet.  We need its cool spaces, the respite it brings.  We require it for sleep, for study.  We need it for rumination, for personal growth.  We must be able to face up to ourselves, question our decisions, be alone.  A lot has been made in recent years of the burgeoning problems that excessive screen time is bringing on society.  Talk of stilted social development, poor eyesight, harm to the brain’s neurons in children who regularly pick up devices before their first year has passed.  We read experts’ opinions on how dangerous it is to allow children unrestricted access to screens, for reasons that vary from obesity to a distorted view of reality.  And they’re all true.  But one of the main questions that I ask myself when I see yet another child in a buggy with its face glued to an iPad, or a row of youngsters sliding their thumbs across their phones instead of interacting with each other, face to face, is not what they will grow up like, or what they talk about when they’re not relating with a virtual reality.  The question I return to is this: when do they experience quiet?

By quiet, I don’t mean total silence, but the kind of lull where the busyness of life is dimmed, where the eyes can close and the ears can rest.  Not having incessant chatter in the background allows the other senses to come to the fore.  Think for a moment about the experiences that we are alive to if there isn’t a phone bleeping, or a radio blaring, or another person’s endless conversation in our ears.  A sunset.  A sunrise.  Rainbows.  Birdsong.  Wind chimes.  Rain hopping off the roof.  By tuning out of noise, we are more open to allowing ourselves to notice the world around us.  A walk in a forest, or along a sandy beach is not enhanced by noise.  If we have earphones plugged in, how can we expect to hear the sounds of birds in trees, or the suck and hiss of the sea over pebbles?  Even the simple act of reading, one of life’s greatest pleasures, cannot possibly be enjoyed fully if we keep breaking off every time our phone bleeps, or our email pings.  We are pulled from that other world as from deep slumber, our attention slashed.  It can be difficult to regain that sense of place when we return again to the page we were on.  Consider the annoyance of someone’s phone ringing insistently during a theatre performance or a classical concert, and the disturbance of both the performers and the audience, the difficulty in settling again.

Doreen-3In writing My Buried Life, this sense of quiet was something I returned to again and again.  Eva, my narrator, is displaced.  Uprooted, by her own choice, from her life in Manhattan, not able to settle in her childhood home in Dublin, she is a person used to her own company.  In her youth, she was a published poet, and in adult life she is equally successful as an academic, specialising in twentieth-century literature.  Eva does not write or study with the radio on.  She does not compose her academic papers with one eye on her phone.

While Eva is most certainly not me, and her story is not my story, I too must have peace when I write.  No radio playing in a corner of the room for me, no television spilling into my thoughts.  It’s not that I disapprove of it, it’s simply that I cannot work if there isn’t some semblance of calm around me.  Even now, from my kitchen as I write this, three small dogs are barking their heads off next door, a car alarm is pitching its siren into the morning, and a construction worker’s jackhammer is splitting the road apart outside my front door.  Add the bleeps and pings of the digital world to that cacophony, and it’s no wonder we live lives where our ears are constantly alert to the possibility of another chink in the silence.  I think it is when we are most attuned to our surroundings that our consciousness is at its best, its most alert, and therefore we are most likely to experience the real moments in life that we remember.  Love, death, birth, sorrow, all these life essences are things we must go through, and even if we cloak them with distraction, they will, like oil, rise to the surface somehow.

Eva has personal demons she must work through, aspects of her life she laid aside and tried her best to avoid.  Naturally, for her to have any hope of growth, of reparation, she must face herself head on and accept her failures, while working towards a future filled with hope and possibility.  Her redemption happens gradually, in moments when she least expects it, and it is in these quiet asides that she, and by extension, we, are at our most open to our deepest selves.

(c) Doreen Finn

About My Buried Life

What happens when you no longer recognise the person you have become?

Eva has managed to spend her twenties successfully hiding from herself in New York.

Attempting to write, but really only writing her epitaph, she returns to Ireland to confront the past that has made her what she is.

In prose that is hauntingly beautiful and delicate, Doreen Finn explores a truly complex and fascinating character with deft style and unflinching honesty.

‘Brave themes from worthy debut novel…Doreen Finn’s delicate detail turns the everyday into something exquisite’ – Irish Independent

‘There is a lovely flow to her writing… Finn is adept at creating memorable characters that act and speak in realistic ways’ – The Irish Times

My Buried Life is in bookshops now or pick up your copy online here!

About Doreen

Doreen Finn was born in Dublin. She was educated at UCD, and holds a degree in English and Spanish, and a Master’s in Education. She has lived in Madrid and Los Angeles, and currently resides in Dublin with her husband and two small children. My Buried Life is her first novel.

  • allianceindependentauthors.org
  • www.designforwriters.com

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get all of the latest from writing.ie delivered directly to your inbox.

Featured books