Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Too Much Information

"An Abundance of Emptiness"
- Outside the Desert Retreat House -

Something wonderfully serendipitous happened in our house yesterday morning. My wife and I were in separate rooms, both trying to get some information about the results of the Iowa caucuses that took place the night before.  I could hear the sounds of the TV and radio coming from the other room and I had my iPad opened as I scanned for various news reports on social media. Then, all at once, everything went silent.  It wasn’t as if we lost power or the internet went down; instead we had both decided that we were being inundated with just too much information- ongoing repetitive stories and reports as pundits and commentators droned on in endless political analysis.

So we both we simply shut everything down and we did it at almost the same time – the TV went off, so did the radio. I closed my tablet and put away the smartphone, and it was only then that I became aware of the sound of abiding and prevailing silence- it was all so very soothing and healing.

I think of something Buddhist monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, once said about the sounds of silence:

Silence is often described as the absence of sound and yet
silence is a very powerful sound.
When you’ve been able to establish silence
you begin to hear the deepest kind of calling within yourself.

Yesterday morning as I basked in the powerful sounds of silence abiding throughout our house, it struck me that, even though I live in a relatively quiet place like a desert, there is still an awful lot of noise in my life. I am bombarded with information all the time.

I find myself spending lots of time gathering information on the TV or radio or by browsing through the various posts on social media. My smart phone is always sounding off little “bells” and “beeps” reminding me that I have a new text message or a new email or that someone has “liked” something I wrote on Facebook. My guess is that lots of people nowadays might be able to say the same things about their lives also.

I went to the local coffee shop yesterday, CNN was playing in the background- 24 hours of constant information constantly filling the air as everyone pecked away at their computers and tablets. It all sort of made me nervous - just too much information.

My experience with the sounds of silence yesterday also convinced me that silence doesn’t automatically happen in today’s busy world. I have to make it happen, from time to time I need to establish silence by intentionally unplugging and disengaging from all that information.

It seems to me that any one of us can make some time to deliberately “drop out” and "unplug.”  We all can press a button to mute the smart phone and turn off all the multiple electronic devices that hold sway over so much of our lives. We can step away from Facebook, Twitter, or CNN reports. We can walk away from the desk at work even for a few brief moments, go outside, take a walk, find a quiet corner somewhere, take a few deep breaths and listen for the powerful and healing sounds of silence in our lives.

The Buddha taught his disciples that they would only be able to find the deeper peace they sought by emptying and quieting their minds.

Tame the mind.
It rushes here and there swifter than the wind and more slippery than the water.
If you can arrest the flights of the mind,
happiness will ensue.

As I see it, this ancient wisdom has more relevance in our own times than ever before. I wonder if Buddha was warning his disciples about the danger of too much information?

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