Challenged by the sound of silence

listening I’m reading an intriguing book entitled “Listening Below the Noise” by Anne D. LeClaire, and it has caused me to rethink my daily habits.

I’m addicted to noise!  I leave the television on 24/7 just for “company” and find myself screaming at the talking heads who don’t espouse my particular belief systems.

I live in downtown Starkville and the traffic is maddening, especially those drivers who insist on playing their radios so loud, the windows in my old house rattle.  One even cracked down the middle – I kid you not!

Our days are occupied with obligations and mundane responsibilities: grocery shopping, cooking, dentist appointments,committee meetings, column deadlines, correspondence and the ever growing list of maintenance chores for the car, house, yard and body.  It suddenly dawned on me that I’m guilty of mistaking a busy life for a rich one.

LeClaire sets aside Mondays as silent days.  She does not speak for 24 hours.  She discovered the practice was the beginning of a personal odyssey of exploration and discovery – “A long journey not without difficulties but one that in the ensuing years would transform my life,” she declared.

In her silent moments, she discovered a hidden garden where ideas and self acceptance could flourish.  She also discovered that reverence slipped in, so hushed she didn’t know the exact moment, only that she felt an acute appreciation for the ever-constant cycle of the seasons and the years as they slipped by.

Last Monday, I decided to give it a try.  I typed up a note I would hand to my neighbors and friends letting them know I would not be speaking for the entire day.  They looked at me strangely, like I might have a communicable disease or that I was going to run off, shave my head and join a convent!

The phone went unanswered and I stayed inside, cloistered, so I wouldn’t be tempted to break my silent “fast.”

The first couple of hours went well.  I paid rapt attention to my household chores, but by noon, I began to worry that I was missing some great piece of news.   Nine-eleven could have happened again, and I was clueless.

I relaxed my standards and tentatively turned on the television. They were rehashing old news with the gusto of a warm beer.  I cut it off again and retired to my study to continue reading “The Book.”  It was beginning to resonate with me and I had a deeper appreciation for the blessings in my life.

By 2 p.m. I was about to burst.  I wanted to talk baby talk to Lucky and Rebel and they were becoming listless without verbal stimulation.  By 3 p.m. I declared an end to the silence and began singing along with Jeb Mo on my stereo.  The noise was back, but I had made it eight hours. I’m going to try it again tomorrow and see if I can make it until 4 p.m.

The reward was that I was more calm and centered, a gentler person, if you will.  So, don’t call me tomorrow unless it’s an absolute emergency!

3 thoughts on “Challenged by the sound of silence

  1. What a coincidence! Our message in church today was exactly that – filling your life from being busy with work, shopping, etc., but a business
    that never fills you up. Our minister did a wonderful example of this. He used several different kinds of colas and soft drinks and as he poured one after another into a container, he used each drink to portray something that would keep us busy. Then, he started pouring clear water, representing living water into the same vessel that was already ready to overflow from the colas and as he poured the clear water into the container, it started displacing the “dirty” water. He continued to do this until the “.dirty” water was completely clean. It was a wonderful example of how we let other things take the place of our time spent with Jesus.

  2. Emily,

    Have you ever had the power off in the house for a while when there wasn’t a storm making noise outside, and it was quiet at side otherwise?

    Had that happen once not too many years ago. What I noticed was that when the power was off, all that little tweetering noise that we once thought was silence, wasn’t actually silence. This was the REAL thing!
    I had thought, on occasion, that I had ringing in the ears, but with the power off, I discovered it wasn’t coming from within me, but from all the electrical circuitry within the house.

    Just think of all the years I’ve lived in houses and never realized that there’s a continous “white noise” constantly in a house that is electrical in origin. This was not the refrigerator or the hot water heater — I noticed it in the bedroom at the other end of the house.

    One of these days, I’m going to contact an electrician to find out if it would hurt anything to flip the breaker box off on the bedroom end of the house on a cool, dry day, just to take a nap in total silence. I must say I didn’t realize how much it would mean to my psyche to have that much quiet in what I had thought was a very quiet life.

    But if it’s no conversation you want, you can fill in for me here someday.
    I get plenty of that! Ha!

    Cuz

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