The act of making distinctions and biting into the fruit of knowledge, fraught as it is with danger, is a tremendous act of creation. When that act of limiting reality directly helps us remember the nature of our own reality, we have evolved from shallow counting to deep counting in a new way. It may be the same end point since time immemorial, but the story is always new and we are here for that story. Your story. My story. Our story.
The Monk, the Butcher and the Incredible Origins of Deep Counting
Somik Raha

Somik, I enjoyed your conceptualization of ‘deep counting’, as a way to move past our knowledge and label biases to a more fundamental and essential experience of life, which miraculously offers each of us a chance to interpret meaning in a very personal way.

I wanted to share with you the story of Gordon Hempton, an Emmy Award-winning sound recordist, whose passion, over more than 30 years of his career, has been in archiving vanishing sounds of nature through what he calls “sound portraits”, in an attempt to capture a fast disappearing sensory experience, as humanity hurtles forward towards progress.

In a moving TED Talk, he speaks about the Earth being a “solar-powered jukebox”, where the consumption of fossil fuel is essentially the use and release of ancient sunshine. In his passionate quest to preserve this “acoustic sanctuary free of noise pollution”, in 2005 he initiated an independent research project called One Square Inch of Silence, located in the Hon Rain Forest at Olympic National Park, Seattle. As per his years of research in sound, he identified this spot as being the quietest place in United States, and his project’s goal is to help preserve this pristine naturalness.

According to his website, “One Square Inch of Silence was designated…to protect and manage the natural soundscape in Olympic Park’s backcountry wilderness. The logic is simple; if a loud noise, such as the passing of an aircraft, can impact many square miles, then a natural place, if maintained in a 100% noise-free condition, will also impact many square miles around it. It is predicted that protecting a single square inch of land from noise pollution will benefit large areas of the park.

The hope is that this simple and inexpensive method of soundscape management will prove to be a valuable resource management tool towards fulfilling a goal of NPS Management Policy, Chapter 4.9 Soundscape Management. The National Park Service will preserve, to the greatest extent possible, the natural soundscapes of parks. Natural soundscapes exist in the absence of human-caused sound. The Service will restore degraded soundscapes to the natural condition wherever possible, and will protect natural soundscapes from degradation due to noise (undesirable human-caused sound).

Visits are made periodically to One Square Inch to monitor for possible noise intrusions. If noise intrusions are observed then an attempt is made to identify and contact the responsible party and they are asked to voluntarily quiet down.”

By following his true nature as a sound archivist, Gordon found a way to create a very limited, yet profound way to preserve the experience of natural silence that allows others to share his deep connection with nature and sounds.

Deep counting allowed him to offer others a unique way to participate in the profundity of his worldview, as being one in which listening is an act of extolling the oneness that underlies our very existence. Through the metric of “one square inch of silence”, he makes it possible for us to experience both our wholeness and nothingness in a manner that goes beyond words. And through such a priceless gift, we are swiftly transported from a place of mundane counting to deep counting in a timeless way.

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