For Want of Silence

“E pur si muove,” Galileo muttered in 1632 as he was forced by the Catholic church to recant his theory that the earth moved around the sun. Galileo’s four words changed the way we fundamentally view the universe and justified the centuries of scientific inquiry that followed.

In the same century, a little Japanese monk who had carved out a name for himself for his poetry was looking at the island Sato, the stars, and the oceans. The monk was compelled to write, “turbulent the sea, stretching across to Sado, The Milky Way” in the haikai no renga form.

The famous line was written by Basho in 1689.

Be it Galileo or Basho, both have conveyed messages of enormous significance and beauty while maintaining the brevity of a simple sentence unassailed by verbiage. Basho saw the sea and wrote poems that have endured centuries. Today, Japan is still surrounded by the sea, but it is also surrounded by a sea of clutter.

Japan’s major news organs all tout the same headlines. People are bombarded left and right by messages. Noise pollution and light pollution, two evils brewed by urbanization, are the consequences of contemporary modernization.

Public transit has not been spared, either. The tranqulity of the trains are treacherously destroyed by voiced messages reminding commuters not to get their fingers stuck as the train doors close and not to forget their belongings on the train. Urbanites, especially those in Tokyo, do not enjoy the same serenity that clear-minded thinkers had enjoyed during eras of great cultural and artistic achievement.

The Information Age has birthed new words like “digital divide,” and “information literacy.” UC Berkeley Professor Robert Reich coined words like “symbolic analyst” in reference to those employed in the tertiary sector that can swim through today’s sea of information and make some sense out of it.

Today’s world is brimming with information; keep the water flowing and we’ll all surely drown.


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