As my wife will attest, I really dislike noise– I’m always ranting about jerks who drive by our house blasting their car radios so loud my TV rattles violently. In those moments, I’m rattled too, and feel dark and violent impulses. But don’t worry, I’m not a gun owner.
My mother tells me I was always very sensitive to noise, as a child and even as a baby. Perhaps then, my antipathy to noise is a personal quirk. Or maybe I’m deficient in some vitamin. This could be, but I think I’m not alone in my aversion to noise, and I think there’s good reasons to think the constant noise we deal with in modern life in America is not a good thing for anyone’s soul. Really, for the life of me, I have a hard time understanding why people enjoy blasting music into their ears (especially, BAD music– another rant). I’m a music lover myself– and occasionally I turn up the volume a bit– certain songs just sound better that way– but I can’t imagine sitting in my car, mindlessly listening to the “boom-boom-boom” at sound levels designed to destroy eardrums of entire neighborhoods. I can’t figure out how or why that is enjoyable to some people.
More than ever, we’re the plugged-in generation– especially the younger folk among us– from sunup to sundown we’re attached to our devices– TVs, cell phones, iPads, PCs, Macs, car radios, tablets, etc– it seems we can never not have background noise. Is this constant din a comfort to our souls? Can we not stand a few moments of silence? Perhaps in the silent moments our secret frustrations, disappointments, sadness, musings about death and God and what’s it all about– are apt to come tumbling into our heads, giving rise to feelings of dreadful anxiety. Such reflection is stressful, unpleasant and unnerving. Maybe we find it comforting then to have noise that distracts us from these questions to which we don’t think we have answers. I’m as guilty as anyone of listening to music, or watching a movie as a way of de-stressing and not facing issues in my life. I don’t think those moments of escapism are necessarily always a bad thing. Music has wonderful power to calm our souls. Having a good laugh while watching a TV show, or feeling a thrill as we watch an action movie may not just distract, but bring temporary respite to a weary soul.
But the danger I see in today’s habit of allowing the constant noise of modern life to overtake us, rarely stopping to be silent, is that this practice diminishes the capacity to be reflective, which in turn short-circuits personal growth. Not all of us have genius IQs, not all of us have gifts of artistic or creative expression, but I’m convinced that by keeping ourselves continually distracted, we don’t allow our minds and souls the opportunity to think the profound, creative thoughts we’re capable of having. What is genius anyway? Is it not the result of concentrated effort to solve a creative problem or solve a scientific puzzle? But when our minds constantly flit about from one thing to another, we lose the powers of concentration and focus that could bring us into genius insights, healthy self-recognition, and perhaps even place us on the path to finding truth.
So as you can see the noise I’m talking about isn’t just loud sounds, but it’s also the noise we manufacture to drown out pain, soothe fears, to forget and ignore our troubles. In this sense, we’ve all been noisemakers at times, haven’t we? But this noise making works against us, because after the distractions are over, the problems and questions still remain.
Christians believe that Jesus Christ was God-in-the-flesh. He came to Earth to live His life as a flesh and blood human being and to demonstrate how we ought to live. Jesus was a busy man and full of life. He attracted followers wherever He went, He spoke as no Man before Him ever had spoken, He had powers that attested to His special relationship with the Father. Yet in all the activity of His life, we have this report about Him… “rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed (Mark 1:35).” Apparently it was the custom of Jesus to get away from everything and everyone, to be alone, presumably in a quiet place, and to pray to God. Oh, how we need this as human beings! If Jesus Christ, the Perfect Man, needed time alone in a quiet place to pray to God and be strengthened and find direction for each day, how much more do we as imperfect beings require this time of quiet.
If you don’t yet know this Jesus, you can find Him through the Bible. Read a gospel such as the book of Mark of John, and there you will see a picture of the perfect human being, the One who came to show us how to live and how to die. And for those of us who know Him and follow Him, may we take time each day to go to that quiet place, to be alone with our God and reach out for His grace.
One response to “Noise- Enemy of the Soul”
Very well said. I enjoyed reading this column . Yes, silence is precious and utterly needed for daily reflection and prayer.