Monday, July 30, 2012

Sounds of Silence

Raise your hand if you are comfortable with silence. No, I'm not talking about having your kids be silent - although certainly the silence when they are out of the house and you are home without them, I'm certain (if I had kids) would be quite pleasant.

Certainly there are moments in our hectic and busy lives when silence is welcome.

But how many of us are truly comfortable with silence? I have become less surprised in life to discover how many people fall asleep with the television on. That "sleep" function on your remote control for your television, where it turns off after sixty, ninety minutes or even two hours, has been around for a long time. Clearly it serves a purpose for many of us.

"Hello darkness, my old friend..." starts the song by Simon & Garfunkel. I was a pre-teen when I bought one of my very first non-consumable item with my own money. It was a digital radio alarm clock. And I had it well into my thirties, and probably, if I hadn't fled my home, I probably would still have it in some box of junk (I fear going back to the storage unit of what I was able to salvage, and finding it there, although I'd also probably be quite happy to see that "old friend", too).

It got replaced by an iClock when those were first new, where you could recharge your iPod on your clock, and play your iTunes as well as the radio through it. But I digress.

When I was a young girl, before I bought my magic clock, I would take my big boxy radio (about the size of a toaster) and hide it under my pillow as I went to sleep, to muffle the sound so my parents wouldn't hear it, and listen to music through the pillow as I fell asleep.

These days I have a few television series on Hulu that I've seen before, so if I fall asleep I won't "miss" anything, although usually there's this moment just before I fall asleep where I actually manage to reach out, touch the mousepad, and pause it before I completely crash.

When I had a television in the house, I admit that we were one of those households where it was always on. I can't drive anywhere for much distance without music in the car (including the three miles to work) - unless there is someone else there to fill the gap.

Treadmills at the gyms these days often have televisions in them. Or if not, there's certainly one on the wall blaring whatever show they think most commonly would be enjoyed by others. (Regardless of whether they do or not).  We invented Walkmen for us to live in our own world of sound and block out others. 

Stores and restaurants all have radio stations or muzak on in them or a television in the background. Heck, even elevators, the original home of muzak, of course has music in them, and in many of the skyscrapers, we now have videos - to get that thirty second blip of information or advertising in that we can.

Those who live in the city are used to a certain hum. It's referred to as "noise pollution". When they come outside of the city they are almost deafened (I know it's strange) by the silence.

I was working job #2 the other night, and we had closed, and a rain monsoon swept in (okay, maybe not a monsoon, but it was creating a nice swirling flood in the street between the restaurant and my car). I was waiting for the manager to finish up and the storm to subside before getting drenched by the storm. He'd already turned off the radio for the night, but the storm took out the power while I was waiting, and then there was real silence. We forget, sometimes, how much noise all of our machines around us make.

On an ironic side note, nonetheless, I have to close my bedroom door at night before I go to sleep, because the ticking of the kitchen clock drives me mad.

Those who meditate, though, savor the peace that the silence brings them.  (Assuming they manage to actually find a space where they can have that silence uninterrupted).  I envy them that moment of peace.  I wish I were better able to enjoy moments of silence rather than always seek to silence them.  I lose so much of my life because I want to be distracted, and because, then, I become distracted. 

Writing these posts is one of the few moments in my day where I turn off the distractions, so that the inspiration and the words can flow.  Perhaps this is my form of meditation.  Even then, the sound of a text or an IM will sometimes pull me away - even for a moment. 

A friend of mine recently gave me an "exercise" to do and the first instruction was to "slow down and spend quiet time with you".  While yes, I have read further in her instructions, I'm not apparently really able to get past that first instruction.   Spend quiet time with me.

Except in the shower.  No wonder so many "brilliant" posts come to me there? ;)

(See, even now, I try to joke to deflect away from the seriousness of the idea of spending quiet time with myself...)

But I know that I am not alone.  I know that many of you, too, have trouble enjoying the silence.  Perhaps we are afraid, as Simon & Garfunkel warned, that silence like a cancer grows? 

And let's face it, it isn't just with ourselves.  How many of us can feel awkward spending time with another when that moment of silence comes up in conversation?  If we're eating, at least, we have an excuse - we are busy putting food into our mouths and therefore it would be impolite to speak.  But you know you are truly comfortable with someone when you can sit side by side with them and say nothing, and perhaps just hold hands.  Just enjoy that moment of being with each other. 

And that, perhaps my friends, is the lesson.  You will know (I will know) that we are truly comfortable with ourselves when we can just sit there with ourselves and say nothing, and perhaps just hold our own hand.  And enjoy that moment of being with ourselves. 

Let's all give it a try this week, shall we?  Come back and report, if you will...

P.S. In a completely fitting moment, while I was writing this a good friend who is taking a long road trip this morning, literally while I was writing this, tweeted about needing a new stereo in her car... thus providing one more example of how we are not comfortable with the silence.  (As well as, I admit, an example of how I allow myself still to be distracted during these moments myself...)

1 comment:

  1. I'm not comfortable with silence at all... even when I'm doing homework, I usually have the tv on or at least music. I fall asleep to the tv.

    my brain goes a little kookoo (sp?) with no noise... it's when my inner voice comes out and I start thinking about all the things I don't want to think about. Then I start getting sad and depressed... and then it's just badness.