Submitted by William Elder.
We are mostly a noisy lot, we humans: social, garrulous, full of fun, at least as each of us defines it for his or her self, often at the annoyance of our neighbors, but mostly, for most of us, fun comes with a bang, a laugh, or a cheer. Contrarily, silence is not merely the absence of human noise— but its absence does help. So, if noise practically equates with human fun, is silence important at all? To whom and why?
Eating is fun too. It nourishes us, brings us together, makes us robust. But most have experienced over-eating, both the immediate discomfort and the disabling fat tomorrow brings with it. For physically healthy humans are, in part, a balancing act between too little and too much food, just as our minds are a balancing act between noise and silence. Silence provides a palpable space, an opportunity to think and consider that which noise too oftens cuts-across, interrupts, or simply does not allow.
Cuts-across names in a phrase human history nicely. It took a long time to develop an efficient sword by which humans around the globe rose to mastery over their natural enemies— which, honestly, for much of those millenia was not animals, but ourselves, man on man. Now we have gotten bomb-smart. Then we were smart enough not only to perfect a deadly sword, but also a sheltering sheath to rest it in. Without a sheath a sharp sword is as threatening to its user as to his enemy. So it is with noise and silence— sword and sheath. We need that quiet interlude to consider what we are slashing at, and why?
But how are we, each of us, on his or her own, able to turn down the noise a tad, at least for a while? My suggestion comes in several parts, none of them any secret:
- Make time to be by yourself, however you have to do it;
- Stop and settle yourself into yourself, relax, however you can;
- Breathe deeply, in through your nose, out through your mouth, in rhythm;
- Cancel out noise and anger, expel them from your consciousness;
- Let go, think widely, examine your own thoughts, your way of thinking;
- Focus down on one problem— wrestle it all around, then embrace it;
- Finally, focus on one pleasurable thing in your life, embrace it too.
This is one way of meditating. There are libraries and religions full of others. Number one here is probably universal: make time. Feels like a personal ritual, then it probably is. You are its center. Do not shirk from that.
Another way may involve a cup of tea— a glass of wine, a shot of scotch. The liquid is not the point, alcoholic or not. Others are a walk, a workout, a drive, a sail— wherever, however you regularly meet with yourself for conversation. The point is the ritual, to make time for yourself and your thoughts and a little silence, a sustaining celebration quiet as a mouse’s cheese smile.
Noise— from thoughtless look-at-me honking, crowd-rousing speeches, propaganda, to loud-mouthed media— is the great and ugly disruption of peace in our day. Time and peace, stirred by a little thought, are the most common solutions to most of humanity’s problems. Heartache and death have too often proven to be history’s verdict on too much noise— mixed with swords and stupidity— among us. Whether we prove to be right or wrong in the end, our middles have, looking back, mostly turned out muddled and bloody. If only our forward vision was half as clear as our hindsight… well, we probably wouldn’t be human beings, would we?
Or would we? For vision of any kind, as always, requires preparation for it. Preparation is called learning, that and respect for learning gone before, plus— it should not be neglected— learning which surely lies ahead. And are we humans not still learning— albeit it ever so slowly? The thought bucks up hope, while reason sinks and shakes her bruised head. Be still, then— take time to think on whatever you have to consider. Think hard! For the same old jackals close in still. Then, when the need arises, stand up, strong and clear minded, and roar like the lion you really are. Now that will be noise worth hearing! Its echoes savored across the nation!
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.