Thursday, August 10, 2006Avoid the Noise
"Let all mortal flesh keep silence,and with fear and trembling stand; ponder nothing earthly minded, for with blessing in his hand, Christ our God to earth descendeth,our full homage to demand." (from the Liturgy of St. James, 4th century).
Our culture is so centered on noise. It is becoming worse every day. There seems to be an insatiable need people have to impose themselves on a quiet moment rather than simply receiving the graces that can abound in silence. Computers, phones, TVs, Ipods, PDAs, cell phones, Blackberries... etc. In such a world, how can we expect to grow in intimacy with our Savior? Can we honestly say "Speak Lord, your servant is listening," like Samuel in the Holy Bible? Are we listening? Can we hear Him when we thirst so much for distraction? We can't bear the silence. We get "bored". Silence and contemplation aren't something we actively seek... they are something we avoid until we "feel" particularly reverent at the moment.
When I speak of silence, I don't always mean the pure stillness that isn't common in a mother's life (though this is beautiful and desirable in and of itself), I'm talking about the silence found in saying "No" to artificial stimulation or isolationist communication. Can we strike up a friendly conversation in the grocery line when we are on the cell phone? Can we hear our children giggle in the backyard playing tag when we have the radio blaring? Can we savor the moments of intimacy with our spouse and get to know them more when we plant ourselves in front of the TV together? I for one, am curious to always know more about my husband... I know him so well, yet almost five years after our wedding day... he is a still mystery. He is a beautiful, God created soul given to assist me on my earthly pilgrimage and there are depths to him that have yet to be explored. But I can not expect to grow in intimacy with him if there is too much "noise" blocking the entrance to his mind. And so it is with God, on a much more profound level.
When my husband was deployed last month, I was constantly praying for "strength and fortitude" to get through my lonely or challenging times. But I wasn't even allowing Christ in my life to sustain me! I was seeking every kind of distraction possible. I practically cried in frustration one night when nothing suitable was on TV for me to get wrapped up in! It was that pathetic night that I fell into a long, beautifully painful cry of begging help from our Lord. I turned off the TV and just sat and listened. Unfortunately, I'm not one of those blessed souls to receive locutions from God or anything, so I can't say "He spoke to me" in a literal sense. But it was a monumental moment in my life when I just allowed myself to be. And I talked to God like He was my friend. And I received the silence with gratitude. (The kids were asleep in bed by the way.)
As a society we seem so afraid of introspection... perhaps of the convictions that come when we stop to ponders the riches and meaning of life. We got rid of our cell phone a long time ago. Praise God! I feel so liberated. Frankly, I like to be unreachable at times. And I confess that I fall into the herd mentality that if an emergency happens on the road, the rest of the world has cell phones and they can bail me out. People survived just fine without cell phones in years past. I admit that I miss the convenience sometimes when I'm at the store or when I'm running late... but it's been helpful on our budget for one, and two I relish getting out of the house and not worrying about staying tied to every person who wants to get a hold of us. Thankfully my husband doesn't have a long commute or a job which requires the use of a cell phone, so I won't tar and feather you if getting rid of your phone is out of the question. I only want to tell you that life is possible (and for us, an improvement) without having our leashes on at all times.
The TV. We don't watch it much. My husband hooked up an antenna on the roof so we get local channels for free but most of it isn't very edifying anyway. He likes to watch the news sometimes when he gets off work... and sometimes there's a good Sunday special on, but by and large it's turned off. We are movie watchers, I admit... but even now, our lives are full enough with tending the kids, riding bikes, working in the yard, reading books, going for walks, doing home improvements, visiting with friends, or playing games, that we maybe have time for one or two a week.
I also rarely turn on my car radio when I'm out. I like to listen to my kids talk to me in the van. Sometimes I get annoyed with all the talking... as I just want to lose myself in my thoughts... but those moments in the van can be extemely enlightening. Some of my best conversations happen with my children in the car. And these are the kinds of "quality" talks that parents can't schedule. They just happen.
What am I saying here? I sense that I'm rambling a bit. What I am saying is that it is important, indeed VITAL to be countercultural sometimes... especially by saying NO to the noise in our lives. Listen the ambient sounds of nature or your children or your spouse... or your Divine Master in prayer. Don't seek or wait to "be entertained"... learn how to receive... how to surrender yourself up to the moment without artificial aids telling us what to think or feel or do.
"Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think about these things." (Phillipians 4:8)
-Ellie: Oak Harbor, WA