STILLNESS: Daily Gifts of Solitude
ISBN: 1-59003-042-7
Published April 2003 by
Red Wheel/Weiser (
368 Congress Street, 4th Floor
Boston, MA 02210, USA
(800) 423 7087
Hard-cover $21.95 USA or $29.95 CAN

Noise in this world is a very much neglected matter. It is getting noisier each year, especially since the advent of the Industrial Revolution. Relatively few people appear able and willing to come to the rescue of our badly over-burdened soundscape, the acoustic component of the environment. In his newly published book "STILLNESS: Daily Gifts of Solitude" Richard Mahler, a journalist, teacher and environmentalist, tackles the question of what to do about this problem. He offers valuable information and explains some of the underlying causes, along with good advice for making positive changes.

The author voluntarily withdrew from society to live for several months in solitude. He draws from a comprehensive understanding acquired in part through the experiences he had there, which were so radically different from living conditions in the "industrial world". One of the essential things he points out is to reduce the pace of one's life and learn to truly listen. Without attentive listening we are unable to attain a level of awareness so critical to understand this world and our role and position in it, as well as to properly respond to what we may encounter in the course of life.

Throughout this well-structured, very educational 166-page book the author explains many real-life situations and human traits with deep insight. He shares entries of his diary to more vividly show how he, too, had to struggle and come to terms with stillness and solitude. With observations like "In the 21st century, quiet places are most notable by their absence," Mr. Mahler reveals the truly pathological state of the modern soundscape on Earth. While living in solitude, he came to such profound realisations as: "The quiet is a mirror held up to my brain reflecting - with awful certainty - things my mind does that aren't flattering." Or "The human ego often shrinks in the bright light of truth, preferring to remain in the dark about its own reality." Then "In the midst of silence, our options expand. When we do 'nothing', we stare into the potential of 'everything'." And "The rewards of quiet alone-time have been greater than I could ever describe to you and most of these benefits are beyond the capacity of mere words. Now it is time for you to discover them on your own." Indeed, we all ought to heed Mr. Mahler's well-meant advice.

It's a privilege for me having been asked to write this brief review of a book with such deep insight into a matter far too much ignored by far too many people. -Hans Schmid



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