You can learn a lot about a person from what they’ve got on their bookshelf. If I had looked at mine several months ago I would have seen sandwiched between Thich Nhat Hanh books on mindfulness, Ernest Becker’s Denial of Death and Don DeLillo’s White Noise, a DVD for the film Into Great Silence and could have easily predicted that I’d make a film about silence someday. This makes me think about how certain themes we encounter in our lives never quite leave us and how in some manner maybe I’m just making the same film over and over again. In a recent email exchange with my friend Neil Elgee, the founder of the Ernest Becker Foundation and one of my earliest supporters, I was asked to explain my understanding of silence from a Beckerian perspective. If you know Becker or my previous film Flight from Death, you’ll get the gist of these elementary ramblings…
I like to think that this new project (and all my projects) has more to do with Becker’s solutions. Silence falls firmly within the scope of creating a masterpiece of our lives.
If we are to take all the prescribed actions that Becker asks of us I think we need to first address the things that cloud our attention and keep us from passionately, intensely, and consistently pursuing an enhanced living situation personally and culturally. The research I’ve uncovered about silence, and specifically noise, is shocking and has clear implications related to our ability to confront the issues that plague us personally and as a species.
Becker prescribes to us that we should surrender to the bigness of creation. How can we do this amidst all the noise, the white noise (both literal and symbolic), in which we immerse ourselves? I think silence is where we can begin to surrender to the bigness of creation and be more effective human beings. The noise we create is another subconscious attempt at buffering ourselves from death anxiety. Loud is in. Loudness expands our own sphere of influence, our ability to outdo the other, and ultimately our sense of immortality.