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A Nation of Noise

BY MICHAEL REISIG –

Never before in the history of America has a society worshipped sound as we do. We love noise, we feed on all its myriad facets. We are uneasy if we’re not inundated by sounds of some sort, informing us, directing us, entertaining us, and distracting us. Quiet is disquieting, silence is frightening, we like our noise. Yes, we do.

I was working in the yard this weekend, loading leaves into the back of the pickup and carrying them to the back pasture – to the cacophony of automatic bells, pings, and chimes that truck of mine makes if the door is open, if the brake is on, if the window’s down with the car stopped, if the seatbelt is undone, or if lights are on and the car is not moving, and all this is nothing compared to the GPS and its insulting voices that tell you you’re basically an idiot if you’ve turned off a major road and into your own pasture.

I miss the days when my car was just a car, not an annoying modern-day sidekick like r2d2. I miss being able to leave my keys in my car if I want, to drive in the wrong direction occasionally, or to back up with the door open to let the dog in, without a symphony of noises and voices hammering at my senses. I miss my old Ford Falcon, from which the only noises I remember came from the radio and the front right shock.

But all of this is nothing compared to today’s new generation and their desperate necessity of sound. They wear iPod earphones like I wear a belt, requiring some sort on cacophony on a continuous basis – while eating, while in conversation with others, while on the phone, or reading, or writing. They’re terrified of silence. I’m reminded of the quote by author Jean Arp; “Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation… tooting, howling, screeching, booming, crashing, whistling, grinding, and trilling bolster his ego.”

Yeah I know. All this makes me sound old – the guy who once made his living as a Rock ‘n Roll musician. Sometimes it takes a person a long time to learn the value of quiet. I like the quote by Elisabeth Elliot, who said, “The devil has made it his business to monopolize on three elements: noise, hurry, and crowds. He will not allow quietness.” 

This new generation is terrified of tranquility and silence – they’re afraid if it gets too quiet they may have to look into themselves – without the distraction of noise they might be forced to discover who they are, they might be forced to come to terms with their own emptiness – physically, mentally, and spiritually. So, like natives in the jungle, beating on drums, rattling pebble-filled gourds, and shaking bells to ward off evil spirits, they continue their cacophony. Given a constant noise they can rely on its diversion to obscure their fears.

We need to be reminded that nature moves in silence. Flowers, and trees, and grass grow in quietness. The moon and the stars seek the certainty of their paths in silence. Peace is a still heart and a calm mind.