Whatever happened to silence? … To sitting quietly with your thoughts, listening to the sounds of nature? Are we so unhappy with where we are and what we’re doing that we must be constantly distracted, or have we just gotten addicted to being entertained?
The other day, I took a three-hour road trip and left the stereo off the entire time. And you know what? I hardly missed it at all.
Some of the most relaxing times I’ve had involved sitting on my back porch, listening to the sounds of silence (not the rock song!) – just watching the birds and squirrels frolic in the yard. I find this a welcome relief from the constant bombardment of the media’s manipulative commercialism and the often trivial drivel that too often passes for entertainment and “important news” online and on TV. How can we quiet our minds and clarify our thinking if we can’t even HEAR our thoughts?
Eastern philosophies talk about the related idea of being “centered”. I interpret this to mean being able to focus almost entirely on whatever I’m doing right here, right now. Imagine if several children were pulling at you, each trying to get you to come play with them; or three friends trying to have three different conversations with you at the same time. Your mind would be spinning in circles. At some point, you’ll feel like yelling out, “Shut up, one at a time!” This is the feel of being uncentered, off-balance, pulled in so many directions at once that you can’t optimally respond to the demands of any of them.
Multitasking is a big thing these days. But I wonder if it’s really possible to effectively handle more than one task at a time. How can you do this to the best of your ability when your attention is divided? To abusively paraphrase a popular cliche: “A mind divided against itself cannot remain centered.”
I’ll leave it to other, better qualified bloggers to advise you how to get centered, but suffice it to say that relentless musical and televised distraction does not make for a clear and calm mind, no matter how much the ubiquitous advertisers may claim otherwise.
Music and other popular entertainment is an invention of man, and I argue, not necessarily better than the absence thereof – namely silence. Sure, music and movies ‘can’ be relaxing, encouraging, stimulating, even uplifting. But just as often, they’re manipulative, nerve-wracking, and generally fill up your brain with lies, creating a false picture of how the world actually is, not to mention making us unhappy with the normal, ordinary, boring lives we’re stuck with.
Listen very closely the next time you walk down the street: I bet you will *not* hear funky jazz music.
Listen hard the next time you see the local police chasing bad guys: I bet you will *not* hear pounding hard rock techno music.
If you’re unfortunate enough to find yourself in a military battle zone (I hope you don’t), listen again: I’m pretty sure you won’t hear a suspenseful or heroic orchestral swell in the distance.
Why? Because life doesn’t have a soundtrack. This seems obvious enough, but so many of us seem to have think the day is lost if we don’t have a cacophony of constant human generated noise in the background. It bears repeating: “How can we quiet our minds and clarify our thinking if we can’t even HEAR our thoughts?”
Okay, I lied: Life *does* have a soundtrack. Want to hear it?
Go sit in the park and listen to the children play. Walk on the beach and listen to the waves rolling onto shore. Sit on a mountainside and listen to the wind rustle through the trees.
Sit on the back porch and listen to the birds and squirrels play in the yard.
Focus. Center. Breathe. Sit. (Quietly) Listen to the pulse of the earth.
“Look away into the depth of the distant sky and let your spirit find wing in the infinite.” (Grenville Kleiser)