Enduring lessons from the desert soundscapes that shaped the Christian monastic tradition
For the hermits and communal monks of antiquity, the desert was a place to flee the cacophony of ordinary life in order to hear and contemplate the voice of God. But these monks discovered something surprising in their harsh desert surroundings: far from empty and silent, the desert is richly reverberant. Sonorous Desert
shares the stories and sayings of these ancient spiritual seekers, tracing how the ambient sounds of wind, thunder, water, and animals shaped the emergence and development of early Christian monasticism.
Kim Haines-Eitzen draws on ancient monastic texts from Egypt, Sinai, and Palestine to explore how noise offered desert monks an opportunity to cultivate inner quietude, and shows how the desert quests of ancient monastics offer profound lessons for us about what it means to search for silence. Drawing on her own experiences making field recordings in the deserts of North America and Israel, she reveals how mountains, canyons, caves, rocky escarpments, and lush oases are deeply resonant places. Haines-Eitzen discusses how the desert is a place of paradoxes, both silent and noisy, pulling us toward contemplative isolation yet giving rise to vibrant collectives of fellow seekers.
Accompanied by Haines-Eitzen’s evocative audio recordings of desert environments, Sonorous Desert
reveals how desert sounds taught ancient monks about solitude, silence, and the life of community, and how they can help us understand ourselves if we slow down and listen.