Erling Kagge on Our Deep Need For Silence



photo by Simon Skreddernes

Explorer, publisher, art collector and author Erling Kagge inspires us to find silence around and within us as a transformative experience. The lengths he’s gone to make himself an authority in this pursuit include being the first person to complete the Three Poles Challenge on foot—the North and South poles and Mount Everest summit. He has also traveled to Japan to meditate and practice yoga.

The Norwegian’s seventh book, Silence: In the Age of Noise, selected as a 2017 Great Read from the Indie Next List, recounts his experiences and presents observations of many past and present poets, philosophers, artists and other explorers—including Plato, Aristotle, Søren Kierkegaard, Oliver Sacks, Blaise Pascal, Martin Heidegger, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Stendhal, Denis Diderot and Mark Rothko—in exploring where we find silence and how to invoke it to improve well-being. It provokes reader reflection, demonstrating the kind of active engagement Kagge believes silence invites. He explores why it’s essential to our sanity and happiness and how it can open doors to wonder and gratitude.

Kagge, whose previous books address exploration, philosophy and art collecting, runs Kagge Forlag, a publishing company in Oslo, where he lives.

Why do you consider silence, “the new luxury”, more important now than ever before?

Silence in itself is rich. It is a quality, something exclusive and luxurious, and also a practical resource for living a richer life. Silence is a deep human need that in our age, has ended up being scarcer than plastic bags from Louis Vuitton. To me, silence is a key to unlock new ways of thinking. I wanted to write about silence because I consider it nearly extinct.

Which insight from the great thinkers cited in your latest book means the most to you?

The Roman philosopher Seneca, 2,000 years ago, said, “Life is very short and anxious for those who forget the past, neglect the present and fear the future. When they come to the end of it, the poor wretches realize too late that for all this time, they have been preoccupied in doing nothing.”

Everything Earthly can be snatched away in an instant. Life is long if you know how to use it. Even if we were to live 1,000 years, our lives would feel short if we threw away this present time. We exist, but few of us actually live.

What have been the most helpful takeaways from your experiences?

Your mind—in silence—can be wider than the sky. Silence is about getting inside what you are doing—experiencing, rather than overthinking, and not living through electronic devices and other people.

Where may silence be found?

It’s easier to find silence than many people think or believe. I walked alone to the South Pole for 50 days and nights under the midnight sun in search of total silence; but I never found it before I turned inwards toward inner silence and uncovered forgotten sides of a universe just as mysterious as outer space. One universe stretches outward, the other inward.

Are there practical steps to achieve a state of silence?

You can shut out the world and fashion your own inner silence whenever you run, cook food, have sex, study, chat, work, think of a new idea, read or dance.

Silence is not about turning your back on your surroundings, but the opposite; it’s seeing the world a bit more clearly, staying on a course and aiming to love your life as much as you can. I had to use my legs to go far away in order to discover this, but I now know it’s possible to reach silence anywhere. One only needs to subtract. It’s about finding your own South Pole.


Randy Kambic, an Estero, FL, freelance writer and editor, regularly contributes to Natural Awakenings.


This article appears in the August 2018 issue of Natural Awakenings.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

News Briefs

The S P A C E Sanctuary Opens in Chappaqua

The S P A C E Sanctuary Opens in Chappaqua

“It was created as a place to gather, rest, breathe and heal.”
Bernadette Bloom Discusses Esoteric Healing on The Transformation Show

Bernadette Bloom Discusses Esoteric Healing on The Transformation Show

5 to 6 p.m. on March 7
Ward Off Spring Allergens with Nettle Leaf Tea

Ward Off Spring Allergens with Nettle Leaf Tea

Something as simple as drinking nettle leaf tea prior to and during early spring can be a helpful preventive practice.
Petition Demands Environmental Impact Study of Cricket Valley Project

Petition Demands Environmental Impact Study of Cricket Valley Project

Davenport is urging people to sign the petition asking New York leaders for an updated environmental impact study of the Cricket Valley Energy project.
Fresh Organic Becoming ‘Go-To’ Salon for Hair and Scalp Issues

Fresh Organic Becoming ‘Go-To’ Salon for Hair and Scalp Issues

Feeding the Future in Yonkers

Feeding the Future in Yonkers

Feed Your Future is part of a larger mission to empower communities to reclaim and revitalize environmentally and economically under-served neighborhoods.
Riverkeeper Film Screening and Panel Discussion

Riverkeeper Film Screening and Panel Discussion

5:30 to 9 p.m., March 5, at the Newburgh Brewing Company
NewLife Expo Returns to New York City in March

NewLife Expo Returns to New York City in March

March 22 through 24
Rhinebeck Pilates Plans April Conference at Jacob’s Pillow

Rhinebeck Pilates Plans April Conference at Jacob’s Pillow

April 26 to 28
Hilltop Hanover Farm Holds Maple Fest Weekends

Hilltop Hanover Farm Holds Maple Fest Weekends

March 23 to 24 and March 30 to 31
CBD Info Talks in Bedford Hills

CBD Info Talks in Bedford Hills

Free informational session on CBD products every Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m.
Juice Detoxes Work Better and Faster

Juice Detoxes Work Better and Faster

“The body doesn’t have to break down the solids, and the results are faster and better.”
Free Spirit Holistic Expo Coming to Area

Free Spirit Holistic Expo Coming to Area

June 2, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Karen Drucker: Live at the United Palace

Karen Drucker: Live at the United Palace

7 p.m. on April 8
Chef Alex Raij Serves Up Glynwood Farm Dinner

Chef Alex Raij Serves Up Glynwood Farm Dinner

6:30 to 10 p.m. on March 9
Center for Green Building Opens in Mamaroneck

Center for Green Building Opens in Mamaroneck

Grand opening, including complimentary food and drinks, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on March 23.
Equilibrium Studio Opens in Pawling

Equilibrium Studio Opens in Pawling

Equilibrium offers yoga, Pilates and Barre, as well as stretching and strengthening classes designed to help people rehabilitate from injuries and improve their athletic performance.
Dance the Weekend Away in Saratoga

Dance the Weekend Away in Saratoga

February 15 through 17
Natural Remedies Can Boost Immunity in Winter

Natural Remedies Can Boost Immunity in Winter

There is scientific evidence that acupuncture has a positive effect on the immune system.
Facial Massage Has Holistic Benefits

Facial Massage Has Holistic Benefits

“A well-performed facial massage is a glorious treat that will reduce puffiness, improve skin tone and enrich complexion."
Opioid Crisis Focus in Somers

Opioid Crisis Focus in Somers

1 to 3 p.m. February 7
‘Grandfather of Integrative Dermatology’ to Teach His Methods

‘Grandfather of Integrative Dermatology’ to Teach His Methods

“I encourage anyone living with unsolved chronic skin conditions to make an appointment and see how we can help you.”
Valerie Nivar Offers Natural Solutions for ‘Invisible Illnesses’

Valerie Nivar Offers Natural Solutions for ‘Invisible Illnesses’

“I am passionate about empowering my clients to achieve motivation and confidence and to live their best life.”
Sugaring Program at Sugar Hill Farm

Sugaring Program at Sugar Hill Farm

February 23
Holistic Chamber of Commerce Adds Poughkeepsie Chapter

Holistic Chamber of Commerce Adds Poughkeepsie Chapter

The new chapter will promote and support holistic and sustainable professionals and business owners in the Hudson Valley.
Synchronicity Brings Healing through Psychic Readings

Synchronicity Brings Healing through Psychic Readings

“These readings help offer guidance and insight into life situations.”
Microdermabrasion Now Offered by Daniela Hortencio

Microdermabrasion Now Offered by Daniela Hortencio

“It’s basically an exfoliation and skin rejuvenation procedure that leaves skin looking softer and brighter.”
Alternatives to Violence Project Seeking Workshop Facilitators

Alternatives to Violence Project Seeking Workshop Facilitators

The next Basic workshop in Westchester will take place March 8 to 10.

Add your comment: