by David McElroy
I’m sitting in my quiet and darkened office Sunday evening. There are a few raindrops still falling outside and they make gentle sounds as they hit the trees and ground. The only light is from a porch across the street, and that single bulb gently illuminates the rain and condensation on the front windows.
In the stillness, I can hear something which is frequently drowned out by the noise of the world. When the natural silence around me is such that every tiny sound becomes like the crash of cymbals, I can hear something inside myself.
Something in there has a lot to say when I can be quiet enough to listen. My heart feels a lot of things deeply and desperately needs someone to hear those things. My soul seems to know things about truth and wisdom and knowledge that come from somewhere beyond my understanding. Bits and pieces of me have a lot to say — and I need to hear them.
The world around us is noisy, both literally and figuratively. In the last couple of hundred years, we’ve invented countless ways to make noise. Machines that make our lives easier frequently come with mechanical or electrical noises. Entertainment devices make noises that our great-great-grandparents couldn’t have fathomed.
Most people are no longer quite comfortable with silence. They’re accustomed to the roar of television or the blaring of a music player. I know people who come home and flip a television on as soon as they walk through their door. It’s not that they want to watch anything. They simply hate the silence.
As I sit here in that joyous silence, I’m looking through a window that is full of beautiful patterns created by the interplay of water drops and the light from across the street. My eyes move slightly and the water droplets become like a kaleidoscope as the shapes change.
So what do I hear?
My heart and my soul are talking about love, about longing, about regret, about hope. My heart is full of fierce wants and passionate desires and desperate needs. I see faces. I hear voices. I experience the melancholy sweetness of memory.
My soul is full of dim images of what could be for the future. Maybe what should be. And somewhere in there is what feels as though — when I’m quiet enough — is the presence of God bringing assurance and love to me.
What I hear and what I see have more in common with poetry than prose. They’re things which are deeply felt and strongly experienced more than things which are reasoned or rational.
And yet this stream of voices, faces and feelings contains more truth than all of the logical thinking and problem-solving I do all day. I don’t know what to do with all of what I see and hear. I just know it’s truth in a deeper way than I know how to explain.
My world is far too noisy, both literally and figuratively. In the literal sense, I’m prone to filling much of my quiet time with podcasts or other learning material. In the figurative sense, I allow the angry voices of the world to intrude far too much.
I hate the anger in the world all around me — especially on social media — but I somehow allow those angry voices to have a place in my head. When I do that, I feel angry, exhausted and frustrated. When those screaming voices are so loud, I don’t hear my heart and my soul.
When the angry voices take up space in my head, they drown out the intuitive knowledge and insight that are waiting for me.
I don’t know how to change the world. I’m no longer arrogant enough to think that’s my job. But in a very sick world, much of the medicine to heal individual people is available inside each one of us.
Here’s my unsolicited advice.
Unplug your television. Turn off your lights. Turn off anything that makes noise. Stay away from social media. Then listen to what you hear in the silence. Try it. Give it time.
Your heart and your soul probably have just as much to say as my own do. Somehow, we have to learn to silence the world and listen to what’s inside ourselves.
We can’t save the whole world, but maybe we can save ourselves — and help each other learn how to live as loving human beings.