The Sound Of Home: “Sonorous Desert” By Kim Haines-Eitzen

Leanne Ogasawara in The Rumpus:

In Jo Walton’s 2019 fantasy novel Lent, Renaissance friar Girolamo Savonarola goes around Florence using his gift of prophecy to root out and banish demons. They do not exactly hide from him. Loud and in his face, the demons are detected first and foremost by their cacophony. Boldly bellowing in his ears, they are impossible for him to ignore. It is a swarming shrieking that fills up all the space in the rooms in which he finds himself.

For Savonarola, hell is an assault of sound.

In her new book, Sonorous Desert: What Deep Listening Taught Early Christian Monks—and What It Can Teach Us, Kim Haines-Eitzen thinks about the way hermits and monks in antiquity used to take to the hills and flee to the desert to remove themselves from the noise of everyday life; for in the midst of the city, how can a person hear the voice of God?

It wasn’t just the Christian mystics and desert fathers either. The Stoic philosopher Seneca described in great detail the noises coming from a bathhouse just below the room where he was writing, expressing his irritation at the distracting “babel” all around him.

More here.