Silence can be quite powerful in its simplicity, and most of us don’t get enough of it in our lives. We’re bombarded with streaming audio and video, television, and radio. We’re accosted by the “visual noise” of print advertising plastered on every reasonably flat surface we encounter. We’re been taught to believe that this void has no value, that it must be filled up, so we put on our ear buds and turn up our speakers and destroy the silence, from the moment we awake to the moment we head off to sleep. Then we can’t sleep, because we’re unaccustomed to the silence. So many of us these days are stressed, overloaded, overstimulated.
If we really took a hard, objective look at the noise in our lives, a great deal of it has no true value add. It is noise for the sake of noise. We’re afraid we’re going to miss something. We fear awkward pauses in conversation, because we don’t learn how to be comfortable with each other in silence, so we chatter and natter and say things of little value. We consume for the sake of consumption, so we don’t appreciate, or savor, or enjoy most of it, because its use as noise is its primary function, and we thus devalue it and remove and of its other merits.
For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been consuming very little media, I’ve been sitting on my patio, or in the park, or at the library, enjoying the silence. Very little streaming content, little TV, no radio, no MP3s save for a couple of podcasts. The content I did consume, I did so intentionally, by appointment, because I wanted to partake and enjoy it, not because it was simply something to fill the void. I’ve done a lot of reading and books, with the exception of a few pages informing me of the authors’ and publishers’ other works, contain no advertising.
I have also done very little with blogging or social media. I haven’t spent time thinking of things to say just so I can fill a blank space. I have other writing to do, as part of my job, which may have no deeper meaning than generating a paycheck, but even that low purpose is a purpose. I am working, quite hard, to not say things simply to say things.
Fear of silence, ironically, seems to me to be the enemy of true communication. We tip the signal-to-noise ratio when we focus on any old trivia, and noise, to quash the silence. When we do have something of meaning to communicate, it gets lost in the din.