Many people today suffer from what one woman has called ‘the decibel disease.’ “I can’t hear myself think,” she moaned, “with all the noise.” A recent radio program highlighted the distress caused by the increased daily cacophony. The seemingly endless assault of traffic, machines, newscasts leaves one frazzled. We all have our pet noise pollutant and rage against mobile phones or store musak, raucous neighbours or late night parties.
Worst of all is the endless chatter inside our heads. We long for silence yet how often, when we are alone, in a quiet place, do we not reach out to turn on the television or the transistor? Because it is only when we have some measure of quiet that we become conscious of this inner monologue. We use noise to cancel out noise.
“Let be then; learn that I am God…” (Ps 46:10). The Lord invites us to make ready our hearts and minds to receive the revelation of God himself. We must, as it were, be like a horse whisperer to our galloping thoughts. Gently, patiently, we rein them in and in the process uncover unsuspected treasures deep in our hearts.
As we become calmer, more focused, a sense of wonder grows and ordinary, everyday happenings take on a special glow. With a new awareness I now really see the tree at the end of my road. The apple I am eating is tasted for the first time, The scents of lilac, the shape of clouds, the soft falling rain are miracles I never fully appreciated before. We come to know God in knowing and receiving and loving his creation.
Writing of his upbringing in the remote countryside of Co Leitrim, John McGahern says, “I am sure that it is from those days I take the belief that the best of life is lived quietly, where nothing happens but our calm journey through the day, where change is imperceptible and the precious life is everything.”
We must take care of “the precious life,” whatever our circumstances, however busy we are, however relentless the demands on our time. It is a striking fact that some of the busiest saints were also among the greatest of mystics.
Their achievements, whether caring for the sick, educating the poor, founding communities or building monasteries – none of this distracted them from the one thing necessary. This is true today of those individuals who in the midst of the inhumanity and indifference of our times have found an inner balance, a still point, a place where, as the poet R.S. Thomas wrote, “They step aside through the invisible veil that is about us into a state not place of innocence and delight.”
No fear of being destroyed by the decibels when we nourish our hearts with silence.