Seek­ing more si­lence a must in our noisy mod­ern world

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - OBITUARIES -

In a pre­vi­ous col­umn, I pointed out the ob­vi­ous truth that mod­ern life is fast-paced. It is also noisy — though, like the prover­bial fish in wa­ter, we may be less con­scious of this fact. Nev­er­the­less, in our towns, and es­pe­cially in our cities, it is nearly im­pos­si­ble to es­cape the cease­less rat­tle, hum, roar, screech and clang of mod­ern life.

If you have the good for­tune to live in a rel­a­tively quiet place, or if you make the ef­fort on oc­ca­sion to get to such a place, then you’ve prob­a­bly ex­pe­ri­enced the heal­ing ef­fect of even a day or two away from con­stant noise. Thoughts grad­u­ally slow down, the body re­laxes and, even­tu­ally, the mind be­comes at least a bit clearer.

Of­ten, in the midst of such an ex­pe­ri­ence, we gain a new per­spec­tive on our daily life that we could not have ob­tained in the dis­trac­tion of our noisy home en­vi­ron­ments.

Re­cently I vis­ited two quiet places: one in a re­mote lo­ca­tion out­doors, and the other in a church in the mid­dle of Chattanooga. Both ex­pe­ri­ences re­minded me force­fully of the ben­e­fits of si­lence.

The first place was Rac­coon Moun­tain, where my fam­ily and I took a short hike one breezy Sun­day af­ter­noon in Oc­to­ber. Our un­planned des­ti­na­tion was a grove of cy­press trees en­cir­cling a small pond. The trail took us right past the pond, and we de­cided to stop and look around.

The quiet of the place was pal­pa­ble. Un­derneath each in­ter­mit­tent sound we made or heard in the dis­tance, a rul­ing si­lence could be felt. Grad­u­ally, it stole into me. Even though I was mov­ing around, talk­ing with my daugh­ter, tak­ing pic­tures, I sensed my body and mind re­lax­ing.

For a few mo­ments, my in­ter­nal agenda be­gan to dis­solve. I felt I could spend hours in this spot just sit­ting, watch­ing and lis­ten­ing to the life of the place un­fold.

Of course, with a 3-year-old and a 9-mon­thold in tow, I was not per­mit­ted to fol­low this im­pulse. But I rec­og­nized its im­por­tance and the deep need it re­vealed.

The sec­ond place was a church just out­side my neigh­bor­hood in South Brain­erd.

I went in the morn­ing on a week­day, when there was no ser­vice sched­uled. Sit­ting in a pew near the front of the sanc­tu­ary, I could hear peo­ple mov­ing about be­hind me oc­ca­sion­ally. A few walked qui­etly up to pray be­fore the cru­ci­fix be­hind the al­tar.

I had come to the church from a lo­cal cof­fee­house, a pleas­ant place but too noisy for fo­cused read­ing and writ­ing, which is what I was do­ing that par­tic­u­lar morn­ing. The con­ver­sa­tions and back­ground mu­sic at the cof­fee­house pre­vented my mind from dip­ping be­low the sur­face of thought.

But at the church, where si­lence reigned and my pres­ence was al­lowed with­out ques­tion or of­fers of as­sis­tance, I be­gan to ex­pe­ri­ence the same kind of slow­ing down and set­tling in that I had felt in the cy­press grove. The words I read sank deeper, and my writ­ten re­flec­tions took shape eas­ily in the clar­i­fy­ing quiet.

I came away from both the moun­tain and the church with a new re­solve to seek out si­lence as much as pos­si­ble.

L.B. Black­well has been prac­tic­ing Ek­nath Easwaran’s pas­sage med­i­ta­tion for 10 years. He lives in Chattanooga with his wife and two daugh­ters. He blogs at mun­daneway.

L.B. Black­well

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