On Quiet, or the Lack Thereof

This is one of an occasional series of short essays on the salient topics of the day.  Usually they are religious or political in nature, and this one is mildly that way too, so you’ve been warned.  Today’s post comes as a response to a terrific post from the Brains On Fire Blog, by Robbin Phillips.

There’s a desperate need in today’s world for some quiet.  Time was, you could go outside in the dead of night, or even the early morning, and there would be nothing of the human world you could hear.  A few crickets, maybe a nightjar, an owl.  Nothing else.  There is a peace for the soul in that quiet, and a chance to hear one’s own thoughts, and occasionally even the whisper of something else, something not ourselves, calling to us.

How many of us ever have that experience anymore?

With Twitter and Facebook and MySpace, to say nothing of Pandora and iTunes, there is never any place for us to just BE.  Always there is something streaming in, and usually something streaming out, without any chance to process, to understand, to grow some wisdom to go with our knowledge.

A month ago I added a one-hour block to my calendar twice a week for “pondering”.  I thought I needed a minute here and there to just think.  No phone, no computer, nothing.  Just me and a pencil and a sheet of paper.  After a month, I can tell you that that is the most critical time on my calendar all week, and I can tell you this because I have been unable to get myself to observe that time even once in eight chances.  Always something comes up.  I can’t do 60 minutes twice a week.  That’s a tragedy.

When I have taken time, usually really early in the morning, to think and to plan and to ponder the things I’ve been reading and doing, I find that I’m spectacularly more effective at everything I do that day.  I find that I get solutions to intractable problems, remember things better, even find that I know people I should visit, people that I should call.  People that need me to connect with them.  I wouldn’t have thought of it, except that for a moment I could actually HEAR, because there was nothing, for once, to listen to.

I do not think that the trend – I wouldn’t call it a recent one – toward a constant, unremitting stream of information (and I count music in that) is a healthy one.  The ability to concentrate for long periods is on the decline, and that decline has some nasty consequences.  But the inability to be quiet, and to listen for the Voice that calls in the quiet, is catastrophic, I think.

Peace, on earth, would be a very good thing.  Arrange some for yourself.

2 Responses to “On Quiet, or the Lack Thereof”

  • Truth comes in from many different places. I like your thoughts and yes, the quiet is awesome.
    I just recently moved to a place in the country where there is quiet. Friends and family comment on it when they come to visit. I have a tug-a-war with having them come and disrupting the quiet, but family and friends are good, though only for a few of my precious quiet moments taken.

  • chrisjones says:

    The smallest town I ever lived in until this one is Provo, which has 100,000 people in it. Before that it was Springfield, which is part of the DC metro area, and I lived in Seattle and Budapest.

    Our first night in the first Lehi house I was shocked by the silence. No cars. Nothing. We were so far out on the edge of town (at that time) that we couldn’t hear much of anything. Until morning, that is, when the cows woke us up lowing for their breakfast. I’ll never forget that, nor stop longing for it again.

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