“Nowadays most men lead lives of noisy desperation.”
– Henry David Thoreau
Many of us would admit to living noisy lives. Often we’d say that our environment, or our culture are to blame. We look at always-on technology, our crazy schedules, our boisterous kids, but these are often red herrings, distracting us from where the real noise resides.
The real noise, often, is inside.
Hearing the Music
I once went to a symphony orchestra with some friends. We sat down. The way Denver’s Boettcher Concert Hall is arranged, the stage is in the middle of the room, the audience encircling the orchestra. We felt as though we were within arm’s reach of the musicians.
But as the orchestra started playing, I was shocked.
I could not hear them.
I was mere metres from the string section, but I could scarcely hear what they were playing.
Have you ever had the feeling that, even though the air is silent, you’re engulfed in noise? Sometimes the noise inside can drown out the sound outside.
That’s exactly how I was feeling.
I had no idea how noisy my internal world had been, my mind and entire being filled with various stresses and preoccupations.
As I continued to listen, I felt the internal noise starting to drain out of my body. As the preoccupations began to quiet, and I began to hear the orchestra’s delicate song.
Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
This winter season ushers us into silence. The ground (in the north, at least) is covered with silent blanket of white which muffles sound and hushes life to sleep for the colder months. Simultaneously, Christmas joins in directing our attention to peace on earth, which is easier to imagine while looking out over snow-covered fields.
Even as we reflect on peace on earth, may you find the space to quiet the noise inside.