How many of your waking hours do you spend in complete silence – no news, no TV, no music, no conversations with others? Just silence that allows space for you to focus totally on your own thoughts and feelings. Silence for reflection, meditation, and/or prayer.
Contemporary culture is characterized by a constant barrage of stimuli that makes it difficult for us to be still and silent. This environment causes what Robert Cardinal Sarah, his book The Power of Silence, calls a “tragedy”: “The tragedy of our world is never better summed up than in the fury of senseless noise that stubbornly hates silence. This age detests the things that silence brings us to: encounter, wonder and kneeling before God.”
I worry that our children are growing up in a world that doesn’t teach them to sit in silence with their own thoughts. During every moment their attention is not needed elsewhere, they immediately plug into an electronic device and fill up the blank space with movies, games, music, or text messaging. When deprived of a device and left with nothing to occupy them, they are instantly bored and restless because they are used to constant entertainment and distraction. I wonder if many ADHD diagnoses mask the fact that our youth are overstimulated and have never been trained to be still for periods of time. When we can’t be still, we can’t hear our own thoughts. We can’t ponder what we think and believe. We can’t learn. We can’t imagine and create. We can’t connect to our divine Source. As a result, we experience great loss.
That’s why I’m always impressed when I see parents bring their small children to Mass. Those parents are requiring their children to sit still for at least an hour every week. Children must practice being alone with their thoughts. They must develop the ability to hear themselves think and open themselves to the voice of God. If we can’t learn to do those things, we can’t fully grow, develop, and reach our human potential.
Maybe because I’m 53 years old and I’m not a digital native, I have no difficulty at all turning off all noise and creating silence. Every morning, I get ready for work in silence. I often drive my car and eat lunch (when I’m alone) in silence. During Mass, I enjoy the periods of silence almost as much as everything else; I use that time for reflection on the homily and for prayer. I end my day in silence. I fall asleep to the sound of a whirring fan, that’s all. When I’m unable to escape from noise for an extended period of time, I find myself feeling irritable, frustrated, stressed, and sometimes even angry.
Quiet time calms and centers me. These silences are when I think, explore new ideas, make connections, evaluate solutions to problems, talk to God to express my gratitude, ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. Silence is essential to my well-being.
Wishing you time for silence and Christ’s Peace,