Searching for Silence

A man I know and respect once said, “The only true cardinal sin remaining in today’s culture is the sin of boredom.” And it’s true. We’ve built a society that is addicted to entertainment.

To a certain point that isn’t all bad. We’re human. We need something more than basic nutrition and shelter to meet our needs. Good entertainment can serve to feed the soul like food feeds the body.

But when I look around me at all the things we’ve built up to distract us, all the noise and pretty colors set up like walls to keep the silence out, it makes me wonder. What if it were all gone? What if we were left alone with ourselves?

I decided to do an experiment to find out.

I turned off my computer, I shut off all my cells phone’s various apps, and I set the timer for thirty minutes. Then I sat down in my writing chair, and I waited.

At first there was a kind of panic that swept over me. I remember wondering “What was I thinking? Half an hour of just sitting and thinking? This is stupid, this is pointless. Bring me back my playthings!”

But gradually that moment passed, and I was left with…silence. I started thinking. I didn’t have a plan or any kind of goal. I just wanted to know what my mind could accomplish in half an hour with no distractions.

I let my thoughts run over the edits I had planned for my story The Mulch Pile. After a while I drifted on to more abstract thoughts: philosophy, theology, psychology. And before I knew it the alarm clock went off and I went back about my daily routine.

What was the end result? I’d love to tell you I experienced some kind of deep revelation, or came to some great personal understanding, but none of those things are true. But I did get quite a bit of advance planning done for my revisions and edits, and I found my mind wandering through some interesting labyrinths of thought and memory.

In the end I’m glad I did it. I think its important for all of us to remember who we are outside of all the distractions and diversions we surround ourselves with. I wonder if far too often we let the noise of entertainment and social media drown out the deeper and more meaningful messages in our lives.

I know many of you have busy days and carving out time to do something so seemingly pointless as sitting and thinking with no distractions may not come easily for you. But I urge you to try it, at least once. Dare to strip away all the noise, and you may find something meaningful waiting in the silence.

6 responses to “Searching for Silence

  1. I try and do this as much as possible, though it’s hard for me to concentrate on just one thing. My mind wanders a lot! Cool post, man.

  2. I guess I’m lucky. Except for the traffic outside (very busy street), I rarely have any noise going on in my apartment. I don’t listen to the radio, haven’t watched tv in almost two years, rarely listen to music while I’m at the computer. In fact, the speakers are usually turned off. So it’s just me and my keyboard, or me and a book.

    • Well, the noise I was referring to was more metaphorical than literal. But the fact that you’ve cut out television is very close to what I’m advocating. One less thing to distract you from the core principles of your life.

  3. It’s perfect. I advocate silence by meditation. Even 20 minutes a day. I actually posted something about it a few weeks back.

    • 20 minutes a day is more than I’m prepared to make time for at the moment, but one day I may work up to that. I think if people even try it once it might make a difference for them.

  4. I’ve never understood some people’s aversion to silence, but I guess there is such a thing as too much silence.

    I often find myself craving solitude and silence, and then far too often I find that I don’t know what to do with it but daydream.

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