Thursday, 11 January 2007


George Eliot writes: ‘If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence'. Middlemarch (London: Penguin, 2003), p.194.

Isn’t it a striking phrase? What do you think she means by ‘roar’ here? In other words: is it, say, the sound of a waterfall continually tumulting in the background, because we're living unawares alongside Niagara, if only we could clear our heads of chatter and noise, and hear it? The sound of Lucretius’s trillion trillion atoms waterfalling forever through space? Or is it the roar or a lion or a monster, Grendel shouting into the storm outside our fastness? Something to scare us into dying, if we could only hear it?

If the former, then maybe it's the very familiarity and ubiquity of the sound that has silenced it in our ears. And maybe it needn't be so fatal to open our ears.

No comments: