I took the train home from work recently and I looked to be the lone person on the car without headphones. I noticed it first on the platform: everyone was head-down, headphones in place, looking at their phones. Later on the train, I sat up at one point to stretch my neck and looked in front of and behind me and everyone had headphones in place. They had expensive ones, cheap ones, over the ear ones, wireless ones, and a million other assortments. The type of headphones didn’t matter. They all had them. They put in their headphone and zoned out the rest of the world.
The image hit me like a brick: We’re scared of silence. We’re scared of resting alone in our own thoughts.
We fill our in-between moments with music, podcasts, recordings of books, anything to make the day go faster and to prevent our thoughts from getting in the way.
We’re scared of just being.
It happens in groups too. When we’re talking with someone, we fill in the silence with useless banter. In fact, when I was a young reporter, the best thing I could do to get information was to ask a question and then keep my mouth shut. Not say another word. The politicians and the muckety-mucks, as we liked to call paid PR representatives, would inevitably fill in the space. Keep silent long enough and the truth would eek its way out from the blather and rise to the surface.
So, it’s really pretty simple, we hate silence.
Meanwhile, as I get older, I find that the contrarian in me goes the other way. I find that I crave it.
Oh, I freely admit that I have to force myself to seek out silence. I’m drawn to music or listening to the blather just like everyone else. In this particular instance, I had been late for work that morning and forgot my headphones on our dining room table.
With nothing to keep me busy, I took solace in the mini soap operas playing out in front of me, everything from the he-said, she-saids, the dramatic hellos and goodbyes to the rolling of the eyes, the frowns and even a few smiles.
However, when I force myself to turn off Spotify or Audible or even the radio throughout my day, I find the truth. I find out how I feel about things. I’m not sure if it’s God answering me or just my brain catching up with everything around me, but I get the answers that I’m searching for in my life.
So what does this all mean? Life is there whether we notice it or not. In turn, my wish for everyone is five or ten minutes of silence. You never know what you might find.