Quiet People

Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park, taken by Wai Chee Wong

Gordon Hempton, the acoustic ecologist who speaks of finding and preserving that “one square inch of silence,” recounts how it typically goes when he takes a friend into the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park (the place Hempton refers to as his cathedral). On the hike into the lush, dense timber (Olympic is home to the tallest trees in North America, some over 300 feet tall), Hempton describes how there is often chattery conversation as they ease their way out of urban life and into an entirely other ecosphere. Yet on the return trek, after their encounter with the magnificence and the deep hush, there is barely any conversation – and if they do speak, it is always a whisper. “Quiet is quieting,” Hempton says.

The week of Dallas Willard’s death, one of Dallas’ philosophy doctoral students at USC recounted the numerous ways Dallas influenced him. The student, now an accomplished philosopher in his own right, made one observation I have been unable to shake. “In my five years studying with Dallas,” he said, “I found it almost impossible to be anxious around him.”

Quiet is quieting.



Hempton recorded the sounds inside a piece of Sitka Spruce driftwood on Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park as the tide poured over top. The sounds have been described as “surf plucking the inner hollows of a piece of driftwood to make them vibrate like the strings of a violin.” You’ll want to use headphones to pick up the nuance, but this is silence for the soul.