Sunday, July 17, 2016

Constant Noise

"The Sounds of Silence"
- At the Desert Retreat House -

A few days ago I walked into my house and sat at my computer to check my email. To my horror I discovered that the internet was “down,” our cable was also “out.” So, I immediately called the cable company only to discover that there was a serious equipment problem in the system and we might be without cable and internet for as long as 48 hours.

When I heard this “horrifying news” I went into a “panic mode.” How will I get the latest “breaking news” on all the many stories happening in the country and the world without CNN? On top of that, the various newspapers I rely on every day are all digital, and what about the various social media I go to every day and of course the constant flow of email? I also realized that my daily blog articles are posted via the internet – 48 hours of without any of it,  how will I survive it all?  I thought that maybe I would have to head out to the local coffee shop in the hope that the internet there might be working?

After resigning myself to the “total technology ban” that had been imposed on me in my house, something rather remarkable happened. I became vividly aware of the sound of abiding and prevailing silence and 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.

The other day 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 everyday life. In fact, I live my life immersed in a sea of information, my senses are assaulted with the constant noise of an ever-abiding technology and that’s why I was, at first, so ludicrously upset and nervous when it all went away.

I recently read an article about how much time most people devote to checking email and browsing social media in an average day. From the moment they wake up, before even getting out of bed, people check their media devices, at work or in school and on vacation, while shopping in a store, eating at a restaurant, even in the bathroom, people are always checking emails and browsing the web, and for many folks it’s the very last thing they do before going to sleep at night

When I sat in “internet silence” the other day I realized that I spend way more time than necessary with all my own technologies of constant noise -  my smart phone is always sounding off little “bells” and “beeps” reminding me that I have new text message or a new email or that someone has “liked” something I wrote on Facebook.

Most of us are immersed in a sea of so much constant noise that we rarely if ever know what it actually feels like to live with the absence of all those sounds; and yet,  when the noise is eliminated, only then can we can really hear the most powerful sound of all: the sound of utter silence where you begin to hear the deepest kind of calling in yourself.

Silence doesn’t automatically happen in today’s busy world, and unless the internet goes down or the cable goes out I realize that I need to make it happen more often. From time to time I need to establish silence by intentionally unplugging and disengaging from all that information and constant noise.

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:

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.

As it turns out my internet and cable all came back sooner than expected the other day and in about 3 hours my smartphone started beeping and I was again drowning in a sea of information, bombarded with constant noise. I thought that it would have been nice if it stayed off just a little longer.


  1. I frequent the Blue Ridge Mountains and have spotty to no cell service when I do. I typically just go for day visits..up and back in the same day.

    Last week I visited overnight and for a couple days consecutively. I had no cell service at all for those two days. I thought, "Hm. This may be Mother Nature's way of saying, 'Don't invade this space [with information overload crowding the invisible air space]. I'm keeping it sacred.' "

    I feel sure that one day that will change. But it sure would be nice if it wouldn't.

    I enjoy reading your thoughts Paul. Thank you for continuing to share them.

  2. It's a double edged sword really because on the one hand you have wise and important things to share that are of benefit to others and therefore contribute to a more peaceful world, yet social media and the internet are the way nowadays of sharing them. I guess it is all about balance. xx