So much noise.


Recently I've been noticing how loud life is. Not literally, not like earplug loud, more like "full" loud. There seems to be no space where the noise doesn't penetrate and overwhelm. This noise I'm talking about is not just sound, it's more like mental clutter. I see it (hear it?) something like like a video screen filled with static and white noise. It seeps throughout our brain and seeps into our heart and soul.  This is what you and I are trying to think through. It's a challenge to get a clear picture of anything through the static. You work at it for a while, but eventually it just becomes normal. It's like we bought a mental "house by the train tracks" and then 2 weeks later we don't even notice the train when it passes.  

Years ago there were vast blocks of silence in the life of any individual - the walk into town, the day working in the field, the sitting by the fire after the sun went down. But we progressed. We evolved. We learned how to drive to town, we traded our fields for the crowded office, and the closest thing to a fire that we sit by is that Christmas time screen saver. Every second is filled with noise. Just take a look around you.  Try to spot some mental space, a little cerebral resting place. Even in our escaping we turn to Netflix or scroll through our social media feed. How often do you see groups of people standing around, each one looking at their phones?  When it comes to those hard conversations with people that we want to avoid, it's now easier than ever. We lob comments or subtweets from miles away.

All this noise makes it hard to think...hard to know who we are, or even more importantly "Why" we are. I am coming to believe that there are parts of us that cannot function or grow immersed in this constant chatter. Their needs to be a stepping away from it all for some time to regroup; a mental reset button that takes us back to a place where we can hear the small nudges of the soul.

The soul is like a wild animal—tough, resilient, savvy, self-sufficient and yet exceedingly shy. If we want to see a wild animal, the last thing we should do is to go crashing through the woods, shouting for the creature to come out. But if we are willing to walk quietly into the woods and sit silently for an hour or two at the base of a tree, the creature we are waiting for may well emerge, and out of the corner of an eye we will catch a glimpse of the precious wildness we seek.
— Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness

My fear is that our addiction to the next new thing, be it possession, technology, or experience, is filling our lives with so much noise that we are losing these places to sit silently. Let's be honest, we don't usually choose the quiet. We like the noise, it comforts us by helping distract us from the voids we sense deep inside. But voids don't go away. When they are ignored, they grow, and the pain that we feel but are afraid to acknowledge often gets re-directed toward those around us.  

Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise
and deny the voice
— TS Elliot, from Ash Wednesday, Part V

I realize that it's ironic that I would say this on a blog post that is being shared across the internet. But for just one second ask yourself, "Where are my silent places?" If you're having trouble answering that question you may need to take some steps to quiet the noise you are living in. Turn some things off, slow down, do less. It may take you a while to reestablish some equilibrium, it may actually cause some initial discomfort as you detox from the racket, but if you are patient with the process you just might come to love and long for what you are missing.

Jeff Kuhn1 Comment