We live in an age of noise. Not just audible noise, but visual noise. It seems like you can’t go anywhere these days without something or someone vying for your attention. My guest today thinks all this noise has made us a bit crazy, and that we need to re-capture the power of silence in our lives. He came to this realization while traveling alone, by foot, for fifty days to the South Pole. Since having that experience of what he initially found to be a disturbing level of silence, he thinks other people need more space for quietude in their lives.
His name is Erling Kagge. He’s an adventurer, philosopher, and the author of the book Silence: In the Age of Noise. Today on the show Erling shares his adventures of being the first person to walk to the North Pole, the South Pole, and Mount Everest alone and why he thinks adventure is within reach of anyone who desires it. We also discuss why creating intentional friction and discomfort is a necessity in our modern world. We then shift gears to discussing the exploration of a different kind of terrain: that of silence. Erling shares what experiencing the silence of being alone in the South Pole is like, what philosophers have said about silence, why people should embrace the challenge of seeking silence, and how to find it even in our noisy modern world.
- How and why Erling became an explorer
- How Erling balanced exploring with his workaday life (including being a parent and lawyer)
- What led him to study philosophy at Cambridge?
- Why Erling argues that we should make life more difficult
- The two forms of boredom
- What is silence? Is it simply the absence of sound?
- What does philosophy have to say about the idea of silence?
- What it was like to be alone at the South Pole for 50 days
- How words themselves limit our experiences
- Why Erling didn’t feel the need to curse while alone at the pole
- What is it about silence that makes us uncomfortable?
- What art can teach us about silence?
- How can regular people find their own South Pole and experience silence?
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast
- Three Poles Challenge
- My podcast with adventurer Laval St. Germain
- My podcast with adventurer Alastair Humphreys
- My 8-Week Microadventure Challenge
- A Call for a New Strenuous Age
- 5 Habits for a Better Relationship With Your Smartphone
- The Spiritual Disciplines: Silence and Solitude
- Lessons on Solitude From Admiral Richard Byrd
- People would rather shock themselves than be alone with their thoughts
- The Suicide of Cato the Younger
- The Virtuous Life: Silence
- The Addictive Nature of Modern Tech
Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)
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Read the Transcript
Brett McKay: Welcome to another addition of the Art of Manliness podcast. We live in an age of noise, not just audible noise but visual noise as well. It seems like you can’t go anywhere these days without something or someone vying for your attention. My guest today thinks all this noise has made us a bit crazy and that we need to recapture the power of silence in our lives. He came to this realization while traveling alone by foot for 50 days to the South Pole.
Since having that experience of what he initially found to be a disturbing level of silence, he thinks that other people need more space for quietude in their lives. His name is Erling Kagge, he’s an adventurer, philosopher, and the author of the book ‘Silence in the Age of Noise.’ Today on the show, Erling shares his adventures of being the first person to walk to the North Pole, the South Pole, and Mount Everest alone and why he thinks adventure is within reach of anyone who desires it.
We also discuss why creating intentional friction and discomfort is a necessity in our modern world. We then shift gears to discussing the exploration of a different kind of terrain, that of silence. Erling shares what experiencing the silence of being alone in the South Pole is like, what philosophers have said about silence, why people should embrace the challenge of seeking silence, and how to find it even in our noisy, modern world. After the show’s over check out the show notes at aom.is/silence.
Erling Kagge, welcome to the show.
Erling Kagge: Thank you Brett, thank you.
Brett McKay: You have a new book out called ‘Silence in the Age of Noise’ where you philosophize about silence. But what’s interesting about you is you have an interesting background because besides being a philosopher, a writer, you’re also an explorer and an adventurer. You were the first person to complete the three poles challenge. For those who aren’t familiar with that, what is the three poles challenge?
Erling Kagge: The North Pole, South Pole, and Mount Everest, which is called the Third Pole. I guess the Third Pole was something the Brits came up with when no Brits managed to reach the North Pole, South Pole, they invented the name Third Pole for Mount Everest. So yes, I was the first to get to those three places on foot.
Brett McKay: On foot. I’m curious, what led you to exploring? Was this something you always wanted to do as a child or was there a moment in your young adult life where you thought it’s a good idea to go by foot to the North, South Pole, and Mount Everest?
Erling Kagge: I think we’re all born explorers in the sense that when I look at my own kids or other kids they want to have more space around themselves. They’re wondering what’s hidden behind the door and we like to see what’s beyond the horizon. I think we’re all born in that way, but somehow, when we grow up, older than three, four, five years old that spirit starts to diminish because we have so many expectations from parents, friends, not to mention schools, but it never goes to zero. It slowly diminishes through early life and through your teenage years. Somehow, I kept that spirit, a spirit of enterprise and I kept on dreaming about seeing the world.
Brett McKay: Besides those feats have you done anything else? Explored any other mountaintops or any other things like that?
Erling Kagge: Yes, so this on the first half of my this I sailed across the oceans like the Atlantic Ocean a couple of times. I sailed from New York to Panama. I’ve done all those. Sailed towards down toward Antarctica next to South America. I did long hikes. I went to many mountains. I did all kinds of adventures and I think life is very much about fulfilling your potentials. And for me, curiosity has always been a very important thing. Yes, I kept on doing it and I still do some of it.
Brett McKay: What’s interesting to is during this time you were also working as an attorney, as a lawyer. How did you balance all your adventuring with the your work-a-day life and also during this time did you have children?
Erling Kagge: Yes. I think it’s … Obviously, I’ve traveled to many remote areas, but I also traveled to many cities and met people throughout the world. My experience is that most people underestimate their own possibilities in life, put too many limits on themselves. Of course, some people overestimate themselves, but I think most common thing is that people don’t see their own possibilities in life.
As you said, for a while I worked as a lawyer. I enjoyed it, but it was not for me to sit in a back seat and try to tell people what to do mainly after they did some mistakes. I enjoyed it. Yes, I also got three teenage daughters. I’m not living with the mother, but she’s living in the next street so I have my daughters living with me half the time. Of course, that’s the Fourth Pole, even more demanding than the three first poles. That also gives life a great meaning.
Brett McKay: Yeah. Yeah. I think a lot of people when they hear … We’ve had other adventurers and explorers on the show and a lot of these guys, they don’t do it full-time. They also have day jobs. What you said about not putting limitations on you, they all say that too, is that if you really want to do something, you can make it happen for you if you really make it a priority in your life.
Erling Kagge: Yeah, I think that’s a very good attitude in a sense that some people say … I think maybe the most common thing I’ve heard as a kid was that, “This is not possible. You can’t do this. You’re not going to succeed. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” Somehow it’s just as correct to say to a kid that this isn’t possible or everything isn’t possible as to tell a kid that everything is possible. Somehow, I never listen to those people who said that, this “you will never succeed.”
Of course sometimes they were right, but quite often they were incorrect I think that’s an experience that we explorers have in common. But I also think it’s an experience that most people have in common. If you first decide to go for something, and you’re also willing to suffer on the way, it’s quite likely you will reach a goal.
Brett McKay: So after you completed the three poles challenge, you decided to attend Cambridge University to study philosophy. Was there something about those adventures that led you start studying philosophy or was that something you always wanted to do?
Erling Kagge: I think life very much about curiosity, I try to keep my curiosity. It’s very easy to forget in a daily grind in life, because some of the things that seems more important than to explore your own mind, try to understand, getting to know yourself, and also try to fulfill your own potentials. But fortunately after being on my expeditions for years, and I also became the first to walk alone to the South Pole, which was kind of an . . . experience for me to walk in total solitude for 50 days and nights, without anybody to contact. I don’t need much sun. And especially after that expedition I felt more for exploring my own mind, and then I was fortunate enough to become a so called visiting scholar to Cambridge, read philosophy for a year. I think it’s in one way, although it doesn’t have the physical dimension, I think it’s still some of the same challenges I submit as being an explorer, putting one foot in front of the other.
Brett McKay: What kind of philosophy were you focusing on while you were at Cambridge?
Erling Kagge: I was focusing on moral philosophy because my supervisor at the time, that was his field, but for me it was more about testing my limits, trying to understand, try to dig into something which was, I found, really complicated, and I’m a strong believer in making life more difficult than necessary. If you’re born in southern Sudan you don’t need to have that attitude because life is extremely difficult, but living in Norway, you know, in the western world, I think it’s important to voluntarily make your life more difficult than it has to be.
Brett McKay: Why is that, is it because we atrophy if we don’t? What do you think about that?
Erling Kagge: Yeah, I think it’s because the struggle to survive, to have a fairly good life, materialize, that you have a place to live which is okay at least. And you also know that you’re going to have sufficient food every day. In Norway, you’ll probably get a job. So in that sense, those things that used to be a struggle a hundred years ago in my country, is now something obvious, it’s something that most people experience, but I think you’re born in a way that we want to explore, we want to suffer a little bit. We need to suffer a little bit to reach our goals. We need to, if life becomes too easy, it somehow feels meaningless, and life is very easily filled up with boredom.
Not boredom in the sense that I had as a kid, that there was nothing to do, but boredom was about being left out, not having anyone to play with. Nothing was happening, it was not happiness, that when I look around today in 2018, boredom is very much about having too much to do. It’s too many TV series, games, apps, Instagram, Snap, Facebook, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, but that’s another form of boredom, and those two boredom are quite, the result is quite the same, but life feel empty, and you get this feeling that life moves very fast, that life is very short, and I think life is short if you do the same things, kind of meaningless things every day.
I think if you turn around, start to do more difficult things, challenge yourself, have more variety in life, then life doesn’t feel short anymore, life feels normal.
Brett McKay: That’s a nice segue to my next question, or to your book, discussing your book, Silence, you mentioned this boredom, other type of boredom, where there’s too much going on in our lives, too much noise. And silence is the antidote. And so before we discuss the benefits of silence, how do you define silence? Is it simply the absence of sound, or is it something bigger than that?
Erling Kagge: When I set on to write this book, it didn’t have that many words, but we’re still spent a year and half to write it, and my life so far, the experiences, been able to do it, I was focusing on silence as no sounds, in a quiet place, but after a while I understood that the most silence is the inner silence, not silence that surrounds you, but silence in your mind.
At the time I had, as I said, three teenage daughters, I understood that those girls, they did not know what silence is at all. Life is filled up with noise. Not noise in the sense of sounds, but noise in the sense of distractions throughout the whole day, they’re always connected, they’re always living through a device, they kind of always try to be someone who they are not, they have all these expectations about being part of something, and living through other people, and all this is about noise. Of course, noise is always easier to relate to than silence, but noise still is about forgetting yourself, it’s about living through your device, it’s about living through other people, and the opposite to me is silence, is about turning around 180 degrees and focusing on yourself, not in the sense that you’ve got to live a more egocentric life. I think silence is very much about seeing yourself, it’s about understanding the world, it’s about respecting other people, it’s about loving the Earth even more.
Brett McKay: You studied philosophy, I’m curious, have philosophers said anything in regards to silence? What do they think, is it something that they value? How do they describe silence? How do they describe the benefits of it?
Erling Kagge: I think that’s a very good question, I also ask myself when I start to write the book because I had not read any philosophers writing something really interesting about silence, and I kept on asking philosophers about it, because I didn’t find it myself, and then I understood that somehow philosophers, in general, just the ones I can buy, have not been interested in silence, and I think that’s based on a deep, or grave misunderstanding in the sense that, in first year, when they read philosophy you learn that nothing comes from nothing. And of course that’s correct, they all think about silence as nothing, and I think that’s what many philosophers have been doing, but in my book I try to show that silence is not nothing, silence is something. So something comes from something.
So I think that’s, maybe it’s a mistake that philosophers had been doing for quite a few hundred years, but of course in the old days, like Aristotle and Plato, and others that said that beyond the words we can’t find any more words, it’s getting quiet, there’s good silence, that’s been their experience in truth.
Brett McKay: So you experience silence, I’m sure, in the way you’re talking about when you walk by foot in the Antarctic to the South Pole. You’re alone for 50 days. What was that like? What did that experience of silence feel like, and also, what did you perceive? What was the phenomenological experience of silence, of being alone in the South Pole for 50 days?
Erling Kagge: I think what was interesting, I think I experienced the same as most people had done in the same place, that for the first hours of first couple days, I found the silence disturbing, especially the first day, also the second day. My head was filled with noise, it was absolutely silent around me, it was white all the way to the horizon, the skies are blue. Not a sound, but I still had all this noise in my head. I was thinking too much. I was not to talk in present.
But then, I slowly started adapt to certain senses. I stopped thinking, I started more to experience the world as it was there and then, and then I start to feel more and more comfortable, and as days and weeks passed by, I started to see that the landscape . . . it has this small variations of bluish, greenish, yellowish, pinkish colors in the snow and the ice. And it’s not totally flat either, I start to see more and more details, stretches in the snow and on the ice.
So in that sense, the nature, or the experience of the environment became richer and richer, and I also became better and better at having a dialogue with the nature, sending some ideas out, and getting only thoughts back again. Of course these experiences are kind of hard to put words on. That’s one of the points in my book, that quite often words put limits on your experiences if you got to describe everything you go through in life in words, you put limits on the self, because I think it’s many things in life which is beyond, beyond words.
So for me, the silence through those 50 days and nights became somehow my best friend. Silence has its own language. So I think it’s very healthy to be alone for a while and be silent for a while. Of course, some parts of life it’s not possible, but other parts of life, you don’t have to walk to the South Pole, somehow you have to find your own South Pole.
Brett McKay: When you say you stopped thinking, do you mean you just stopped having that internal dialogue in your head? Is that what you mean?
Erling Kagge: Yeah, to start I was still thinking about life back home, Boris, I was thinking about this girl I was in love with, she was not in love with me. This kind of daily struggles that we have, but then, all this somehow disappeared, and I became more and more present in all life, that the past didn’t matter, I didn’t care about the future, it was only life there and then that mattered to me, and I think that’s a great luxury.
I’m not interested in living that kind of life the rest of my life, because I think we’re all born to be social. We’re born to be together with other people, but for me it was a very healthy experience and I quite often asked from people that are wondering how I would think they would react to me in such circumstances, my answer is that I think most people would experience more or less the same way as I did. Not exactly the same way, but I think most people find it enriching to be in silence for such a long time.
Brett McKay: And I’m curious, you came to this feeling of being present, the worries of the past, the worries of the future no longer, I’m sure we all experienced that in fleeting moments, and I’m sure you got a little bit longer while you were there. How long did that last when you came back to civilization?
Erling Kagge: You know, we got back to daily life fairly quickly. You get home, takes a long time before you actually get home, but when I get home, it’s daily life again. I mean, your washing machine doesn’t work, you get to have it repaired, you need to pay your bills, you need to start to work, so then it goes really back to normal quickly, but you know, we are part of all that we are met in life, so in that sense, the experience remain with me. I still have it after all these years.
When I sat down to write on silence, it was my experiences from the eyes, from the oceans, from the mountains, from urban life, from being a family father, from being a entrepreneur, being a lawyer for a short time, all this experiences kind of made it possible for me to write about silence. If I had only been an explorer, I think I could still write a book about silence, but I would think it would be pretty boring.
Brett McKay: Yeah, I thought it was interesting too, how one of the observations you made about you experience in the Antarctic alone was similar to, we wrote an article about Richard E. Byrd, who was at the South Pole for 5 months, by himself, back in the 1930s, and one of the things he commented on was that he stopped swearing. He didn’t use curse words, and you had that same thing, like you didn’t have, you didn’t feel the urge or need to curse when you were by yourself.
Erling Kagge: I didn’t know that, that’s interesting, I hadn’t read so much about Byrd, but that’s correct. On an expedition I never swear, I hardly utter a negative word, it’s not because it’s blasphemy, that could be good enough reason, but it’s because it’s so negative, when you swear. It drags you down. Especially when alone, and you feel it much stronger, than with other people, because you can swear and life goes on the dialogue keeps going, but being alone, or being with 1 or 2 other people in this very kind of life, where it’s that you’re very much present in the situation for the whole day. If you’re not it can be very dangerous. And then . . . you swear. That feels like a totally stupid thing to do. If it’s dangerous, or if you’re pissed of because you did something silly, or things just didn’t work out the way you wanted, and then if you swear the situation is only getting worse. And if you swear more it just gets worse and worse.
I did an expedition to the North Pole with my friend Derek Holmstrom, decided not to swear, but on other expeditions, I never decided, I just don’t do it.
Brett McKay: Yeah, just don’t do it, I just thought that was interesting, that you both had the same experience in the South Pole.
Erling Kagge: Yeah, and today, in daily life, I hardly swear anymore, because when I was a kid, a teenager, I was swearing, I thought that was cool, but today, I hardly swear at all.
Brett McKay: You mentioned earlier that when you first started your trek to the South Pole, the silence was frightening, but then it became comforting. Why is that? I think for a lot of people silence is extremely frightening. The silence that happens when you’re in conversation with someone, for example, and there’s that awkward silence, and you feel uncomfortable. What is it about silence that makes a lot of people feel uncomfortable?
Erling Kagge: I agree, I also mention that when I was a kid, silence for me was awful. When I was lonely, when I was sad, when nothing was happening, that was silence for me. And of course, later in life, silence is very much about sadness, it can be about one minute of silence, but when I’d been writing about this kind of silence, when I want to write about silence, I want to write about this different silence, this silence which is enriching, which is good for you. I think the reason people try to avoid this silence I’m writing about, this inner silence, is because this silence you need yourself, and man has always tried to avoid silence. Like, I wrote about, 350 years ago, that man has always tried to avoid silence, and if he sits in a room in silence doing nothing, he will always try to start to do something, and that’s the beginning of all his problems.
So this is not something new, as I said, it’s easier to live through noise then turning around and into yourself. I think that’s why it’s quite tempting to call for ease, this option, to avoid yourself.
Brett McKay: Yeah, and I’ve read experiments where they’ve had people sit alone by themselves, and all they had was this button where they could push it and it would shock them. And people ended up, they’d rather shock themselves than be bored, right? So it’s like they couldn’t go very long without some sort of stimulation, even though that stimulation was uncomfortable and unpleasant.
Erling Kagge: Yeah, and you know, it sounds almost insane, but people seriously think in total silence, they’ll have nothing to do for 50 minutes, rather have electric shock, then remain sitting. I think it’s insane. And I think in one way the whole world has turned insane the last 20 years, not to mention the last eleven years with smart phones.
If my grandmother had died more than 20 years ago, if she had seen how we’re living today, she has seen grown men walking down the streets having a phone close to their ear, it’s like all kind of carrying around our teddy bears, kind of taking them so we have them, and the console of it, I think she would think that it all turned absolutely nuts. But of course, if everybody’s insane, insanity is the new normal. So I think it’s gone too far.
I’m not negative to technology, not at all, but it’s a way to relate to technology which is, I think not on a strange, but I think it’s bad for us, it makes us even more lonely, it’s make us more and more depressed, it’s make us even more desperate. But I’m not negative technology as such, but I’m also very concerned that some of the brightest minds in the world work day and night to make us addicted to different apps and different technology.
Brett McKay: Yeah, no, I’ve seen that too. The difference between, say, my generation, or our generation, and my grandfather, my grandfather passed away a few years ago, he was 101, and my cousin and I were having the discussion about how it never seemed like my grandfather was anxious, or like there was some kind of pent up anxiety in him, he was just centered, calm, et cetera, and the one difference, I’m sure there’s a lot of differences, but the one difference was he never owned a smart phone. He never had all that noise constantly bombarding him.
Erling Kagge: Exactly, and then probably also had, you know, it was a different time in America, so probably also had, you know, other obligations that you know, in his life probably was tougher in many ways than your life, but also, you know, gave his life much more meaning that way, because the daily struggle was different from your daily struggles.
Brett McKay: Besides being a lawyer, a philosopher, an explorer, you also are an art collector, so you are, you’re like the most interesting man in the world here. I’m curious, what can art teach us about silence? Because art is, we’re talking about like paintings, are something you consume silently often.
Erling Kagge: First have to say it’s a privilege to be interviewed by you, but you know, for me, what we talk about now, I just find it too privilege that people are interested at all in this thoughts I have about silence, and to me it’s a great positive surprise. But in terms of art, I think art is very much about silence. Let’s say great art is about silence, I think quite often, lousy art is about noise, but it’s great art, then I think about you see it, you have to understand any of it, you need to have some silence.
Of course some people can explain things to you, but if you’re going to appreciate great art, you need silence. Inner silence. And the reason I’m saying this is because an art piece, it’s a painting, sculpture, installation, somehow has to contain the artist’s, it feeds the artist’s humor, the artist’s lovesickness, the artist’s loneliness, the artist’s interests, the artist’s thoughts, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Somehow a lot of this has to go into the art piece. And then of course it’s difficult to grasp what the art is about, and maybe it’s not supposed to understand everything about an art piece, but somehow this artist’s thinking box, kind of adjust this kind of light, and that has all this thoughts in it, to understand any of it I think you need to be silent.
Brett McKay: Yeah, anyway, one of my favorite things to do is go to an art museum and just look at art, and what’s interesting about art, is that sometimes what you see depicted you can tell that there would be a lot of noise there, right? Like one of my favorite paintings, or something you see quite a bit, a lot artists have done it, is Cato the Younger committing suicide, right? He decided he didn’t want to be under the rule of an emperor, committed suicide. And you see how the artist depict all this, you can tell there’s a lot of commotion and noise going on, but you don’t hear anything, and it’s a weird thing. You don’t hear anything, but at the same time you can hear what’s going on in the painting.
Erling Kagge: Exactly, I love that combination, because somehow, as they say, this moment taking up, and made into a painting, which is of course homeless, and I just like that combination, that you can stand in peace, within the silence, and see a great piece of art, and your taste, that you know the story about Cato and why he committed suicide and see how the artist had interpreted that story, and of course put so much of herself, himself into that piece of art, that’s great. So it’s, I think that’s some things that make life even more meaningful.
In my book on silence, I included several paintings by your fellow American Ed Rusha, and one of those paintings is a blue background, and then it says in huge yellow letters “Noise.” And the reason I had it, because the painting is quiet, it’s silence, then it just had this strong word all over the painting, and nothing else. So kind of, the words contradict the painting, kind of one to one, so that’s something I found really interesting.
Brett McKay: You said earlier that people don’t need to walk all the way to the South Pole to experience the silence that you’re talking about, the benefits of it, they can find their own South Poles. So how can regular people, who just living their workaday lives, experience silence on a regular basis, and does it have to be for extended periods of time? Can you just catch it in just a few minutes, and still get the same benefit?
Erling Kagge: I think that’s a very good question, that’s a question asked quite often, then again as I said earlier on, most people underestimate their own possibilities in life, because even having kids, or if you’re having a very busy job, or if you have a complicated relationship, blah blah blah, you can still experience silence.
I find silence in the morning, when I wake up in my bed. Of course, if you have kids, they do screaming, it’s not so easy, but still, and then I find silence when I prepare breakfast for my kids, and I find silence when I quite often walk to my office, it just takes half an hour, but you can’t always walk to your office of course, but then can still find silence walking the stairs up to my office, then on the way back again from the office I can find silence doing the stairs, or instead of taking the Metro all the way home I can jump off on a station earlier and walk, and walking is very good for silence.
And then picking up can find silence, and I find silence when I’m listening to music. I think that’s quite often if there’s too much noise in my life, I just turn on the music with a high volume, then I find an inner silence, I find silence when I’m having a shower, I find silence when I’m reading, you can find inner silence when you’re having sex. You can find inner silence when you go to bed to sleep again.
Sometimes it is for two minutes, other times it is for longer, like in the weekends I’ll do hikes in the forest. So, you know, to find this inner silence we either have to want it, and of course you can find it also by having yoga, mindfulness, meditation, all that is very good I think, but somehow we have to prepare for it. It requires technique.
But when I sat down to write about silence, I want to write about this silence which is just, all the time, it’s inside you, waiting for you, but you have to go look for it.
Brett McKay: Yeah, and one thing I noticed in all those examples you gave, you could interrupt the silence by bringing your smart phone along, because there are people who will take part in all those activities, be in the forest, I’ve even read having sex, and they’ll still use their smart phone, which to me is ridiculous.
Erling Kagge: That is ridiculous. I met a guy on the street the other day, and he said to me when I’m doing a walk I should have nothing in my hands, that’s the whole thing. Of course, if you want me to fall in a hole, in the hand, you know, any of us going to have any silence, but if you turn off your phone to travel, leave it back home, or turn it off and put in the back pocket, then it’s so much easier to relax, because I think as long as the phone is on, and it’s available, you’re so attracted to that phone, and it’s so much complicated not to look at the phone, that you will do it.
I read this article that people average touch their phone 2,600 times a day. That sounds a lot, but I have to say, when I look at my daughters, and sometimes I look around at the Metro, to me it seems like touching their phones even more.
Brett McKay: Yeah, no, it’s true.
Erling Kagge: I think it’s important to keep in mind that it’s a total waste.
Brett McKay: No, yeah.
Erling Kagge: It’s not about not being connected to the world, but you Google something, you find what you’re looking for, and 20 minutes later you’re still Googling. You’re checking the news, you see the news, why you keep on checking the news? I don’t need news throughout the whole day actually, I think the news more or less the same every day. So it’s about wasting this huge, fantastic opportunity you have to live a rich life.
Brett McKay: It’s that fear of the silence. Once you feel that fear, you gotta embrace it.
Erling Kagge: It’s a fear of the silence, a very common fear of the silence, and you can always say that it really doesn’t matter, but I think it’s a bit sad actually, that people are living through, that kind of running away from themself, and I say that, sometimes I do it too. But, you know, I kind of get so much into my phone, or into a device, that I’ll check it all the time, that I’m watching all these series, that I’m checking the news again and again and again, and you know, just after half hour, one hour, few hours, I start to feel having this really uncomfortable feeling, but I still do it, because you get addicted. Of course, every app is made for the user to get addicted, you know, so then they have to give, make promises, and then you’re going to be satisfied for short period, you can’t be satisfied for long, because that’s of course a basic of capitalist, you should be satisfied for a while, and then you need to desire something totally new.
So I’m not skeptical to capitalists and blah blah blah, but you just have to be aware that’s the whole trick. And you have you look through it, and we have to choose a slightly more narrow path.
Brett McKay: Is there someplace people can go to learn more about your work and your book?
Erling Kagge: You know, absolutely, and I don’t think people really listen too much to me, because that’s also why I want to write a really short book on silence. I ask few questions. What is silence? Where is it? And why is more important today than ever? And I try to give three really short answers, so you can read it one evening, and then after that I think you need to find your own path. .. as is said in sanscript that it’s not complicated at all. The silence is there, but I think it’s, to spend one evening to read about it, and then think through it, I think you will find your own silence, and I think you need to keep in mind that you need to create your own silence, you need to keep that spirit, but that’s totally up to you.
Brett McKay: Well Erling, thanks so much for coming on, this has been a great conversation.
Erling Kagge: Thank you.
Brett McKay: My guest is Erling Kagge, he is the author of the book ‘Silence in the Age of Noise,’ available on Amazon.com, also check out our show notes at AOM.is/silence, and if you’re looking to embrace friction, and discomfort, like Erling was talking about in the podcast, we do have a platform called The Strenuous Life that’s designed just for that. You sign up, it’s a membership platform, you get weekly challenges, there’s different badges for different skills you can earn, it’s all geared on making your life a little bit more uncomfortable, little more discomfort, and getting you out of your comfort zone. So go check it out, strenouslife.co, got an enrollment coming up, get your name on the waiting list so you can be one of the first to know when it goes live, so check it out, strenouslife.co.
Well that wraps up another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast, for more manly tips and advice, make sure to check out The Art of Manliness website at artofmanliness.com and if you enjoy the show I’d appreciate it if you gave us a review on iTunes or Stitcher, it helps out a lot, and if you’ve done that already, thank you. Please consider sharing the podcast with a friend or family member who you think would get something out of it. As always, thank you for continued support. Until next time this is Brett McKay telling you to stay manly.