To that point, I’ve read that often you’ll go to a place and, like a painter does with landscapes, you wait for the right soundscape to emerge and sometimes that can take weeks—
Six weeks was the longest.
That’s a lot of time to work and have no concrete output. How does that change how you think about productivity?
I only did that in the early part of my career. I’ll never wait six weeks again. But [the thing] about the recording in the field is that I acknowledge that everything that I planned and expected was necessary to do just to get the contract and the project. But now that I’m on location, all of that is forgotten. I’m at the real place. Pay attention to what is really happening. Be present.
How do you deal with the noise of information: news, books, media, emails, all that?
I don’t bother watching the news. Here in the United States, it’s really infotainment. The spins are so heavy, and usually with an already predetermined opinion about it. So I don’t have that distraction. I try to use my devices as little as possible. But for anybody, even if they don’t feel like they’re digitally addicted, even if they feel like they have everything under control, I strongly recommend that they engage in quiet-seeking travel, that they seek out travel outfits that run tours to quiet destinations in wilderness areas. There, you have an opportunity to revisit what I would describe it as sensory harmony, where your eyes, ears, your nose, sense of touch and taste are all having the same experience. It is no wonder that in our modern lives we cannot make sense of the world, because our senses are constantly arguing.
I’m going down to the Zabalo River in Ecuador soon, and that’s my opportunity to make sense of the world once again. As I tell my wife, that Zabalo River Wilderness Quiet Park is my church. When you go to the Amazon, you expect the Amazon to be different. You do not expect home to be different when you return. But it is. The whole world is different. Big changes can happen in your life as a result of making sense of the world. People who have come with me in the past have changed partners, changed jobs. You’re convinced you don’t want to live someone else’s life. That is very powerful. You’re no longer imitating. You are original.
For people who can’t go to the Amazon or don’t have the time to do a quiet-seeking wilderness trip—if they’re someone who lives in a big city and is overwhelmed in the middle of the week—are there shortcuts to this silence?
When you’re busy and tired during the day, and you have another meeting coming up and you can actually feel that your brain is a little hot from the last meeting, this is what I do—I wind up doing it several times a day, and we can do it together right now. It takes five minutes. Acknowledge that you are worth five minutes of your time.