The Life-Changing Power of Silence
The raindrop tickles my cheek as it rolls down my upturned face.
Soon, another startles me with its sudden presence on my face and makes me blink unexpectedly. It’s just sprinkling right now, but the dark clouds overhead hint of a coming downpour. I should probably go inside.
I sit up from my reclined position in the hammock that’s strung between two evergreens and admire the beauty I’m surrounded with. A dark mountain looms directly in front of me, and, in fact, all around me, reminding me of what a powerful and altogether mighty God I serve.
What Noise Makes Me Miss
But something is bothering me, and I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. The horses to my left have wandered off to find a greener place to nibble. A fly circles my head, looking for a place to land. The house is 100 yards to my right, a tall structure in the middle of this Montanan sanctuary.
Everything seems to be in its proper place.
As I carefully step out of the hammock, I suddenly realize what’s wrong.
It’s the noise.
The landlady has her window open and TV turned up so that the sound carries up the hill and straight to my ears. The sprinkler watering the lawn makes a steady click, click, click, click as it rotates in a never ending circle, shooting water as far as it can possibly reach. A car rumbles down the gravel road in the distance.
And it’s then that I realize that rarely is there a moment in my life that doesn’t have manufactured sound vying for my attention.
When I’m not listening to the hum of a motor from my fridge or car, there are timers reminding me of important things that I have to do, places that I need to be. There are alert tones that ring loud and clear, announcing to me that I have a new text or Facebook message. There are phone calls to be answered. Sink water running. Dishwashers whirring. Keyboard tap-tap-taps. Lights humming.
And not to mention music.
It’s everywhere! In stores, in movies, in cars. Even on days like today when I’m sitting in a hammock with beauty surrounding me, I’m tempted to pull out my headphones and iPod and get some tunes going. There is almost never a moment where sitting and enjoying the sounds of nature–just nature–is possible.
The moments of quiet solitude with just me, my thoughts, and God are few and far between.
But to be honest, I miss silence. A lot.
I miss the times before I had a phone, before Facebook was popular. I miss being 11 and going out into the woods behind my house up to the tree swing. I miss swinging out over the outcrop of rocks, pretending to fly while the only sounds around me were the birds cheering me on in my superhero duties and the armadillos and squirrels scampering through the brush.
I miss climbing my tree and balancing there on my favorite branch, my backpack with snacks and water hanging above me, as I become immersed in a different book than the one I started and finished yesterday. I travel to England, Mexico, France, Russia, and Israel while the wind stirs the branch I sit on, and it becomes a bucking horse, a ship caught in a storm in the middle of the ocean, a bicycle traveling down a bumpy road. The critters keep me company in the tree, acting unbeknownst to them as dragons, snakes, scorpions.
The only sound is that of pages turning.
I miss being in India. I miss those few nights that I got to sit at the top of an unfinished, five-story building in the middle of nowhere, watching the sun set in a majestic display of color. My feet dangled off the edge and there was no sound. It was just me and my thoughts. And I was perfectly content with that.
Why We Need Silence
I miss the silence because it helped me in many ways I could not at the time comprehend.
The silence allowed me to think through the problems of my day, and to do some processing about ways to respond to things differently.
The silence allowed me the chance to look inside and see if there was something I didn’t like about myself that I could change to become a better me.
The silence allowed me to commune with and actually listen to a God who is much higher than I am.
The silence kept my attentions focused so that, even when I left the silence, I had learned how to think until I was done thinking.
The silence allowed me to just be. It didn’t require anything of me. It didn’t require that I put on airs to impress.
The silence taught me to be myself in a world that told me to be anything but.
You know, maybe that’s why the world has so many depressed people. So many people who have been diagnosed with ADD. So many people who don’t know who they are. Kids are bombarded with constant manufactured entertainment every minute of every day.
They have video games that make them mindless robots. They have TV shows that are perhaps funny but also rude and more often than not vulgar.
They have music that they “don’t listen to the lyrics” of that is telling them to be fake. To act like they’re okay when they’re not. To strive for popularity. To fill their lives with everything they can get their hands on in an effort to live a happy life.
But that noise … it’s filled with lies.
Those kids have never had the chance to just sit undisturbed and live their life. They don’t know how to focus in school because school isn’t 6 seconds long. They don’t know how to be happy because they think their happiness depends on what they have or don’t have and the circumstances they are in at that moment.
They don’t know how to be themselves. They don’t know how to listen to someone else.
And even more, they no longer know how to be silent.
There are moments when gleeful singing, a deep chuckle, chatting, and even screaming in exhilaration are appropriate. However, there are also moments when silence is appropriate. And kids are now being raised to not even understand what silence means.
Because of that, they also don’t have all of the positive things that come with silence. And that is one of the most saddening things I’ve seen in my generation and the one that follows me.
You see, we don’t need medication to make us focus or be happy. We don’t need to listen to everything that other people think we need to be. What we need is good sleep, healthy food, and a big dose of silence in our day-to-day lives. Even if that means turning off our cell phones for a couple hours.
Silence is golden.
Take a few moments to embrace silence and just listen.
Who knows? Maybe in that silence you’ll hear what you’ve been dying to hear all along … from a still, small voice that couldn’t be heard over all the noise.
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