Craving silence in a season of noise
I never check my phone first thing in the morning. Throughout the rest of the day, I find myself prey to the powerful pull of smartphone notifications, but for the initial thirty minutes of my awake hours, I want silence. I do not want to hear the noise of emails and Facebook rants, of horrible news stories and viral You Tube videos. I want a moment to breathe, to think, to register the thoughts in my own mind before unconsciously but inevitably switching into reactive mode, responding to the constant chatter and crisis out there.
The noise to which I am referring is different from simply audible sounds, although it includes much of that. It is all the excess, all the stimulation, all the constant consumption without digestion. It is listening to music while responding to emails and writing a sermon and answering a colleague's question. It is unwinding by riding an exercise bike, watching TV, and thumbing through Instagram photos on a smartphone. It is scrolling through 128 Facebook updates in your news feed or reading 57 blog posts and registering nothing that was said, even though passively and occasionally pausing to "like" a cute photo or witty observation. It is running from school or work to a sports event to a meeting, then arriving home after dark for dinner followed by more work and email-checking.
If it isn't already clear, I have done all these things. I am shaking my head at myself as much as I am the current cultural climate. Especially now, during the back-to-school season, there is a lot of noise. I find myself contributing with notifications about events and curricula and schedule. Even if you are far removed from the world of young children and school and extracurricular activities, everything still seems to kick into high gear in the fall. Regular meetings resume, the workplace exits vacation mode, new TV shows air again, social media fasts or breaks end.
That is not to say that all of this is bad. Many of these offerings are enriching and invigorating (As a college chaplain and Sunday School director, I certainly like to think that structured programs are worthwhile). I do, however, worry about there just being too much.
Did an elementary school teacher ever explain the difference between hearing and listening? I remember that a few of mine did, and I feel that the comparison to this particular season (and here I mean "season" both in the sense of fall 2014 but also as a descriptor of this instant gratification, social media obsessed, and soundbite age) is apt. It seems easy to hear a great deal in our noisy world but difficult to listen.
So that is why I am continuing to enjoy my first few moments in the morning completely unplugged. No matter how early my first engagement is, I wake up early enough to ensure that I have those thirty minutes to myself, when I can listen to the smallest, faintest sounds of my dog Gigi breathing, our old family grandfather clock ticking, the garbage truck rumbling around our neighborhood.