Filling Emptiness with Noise

“Without turning on the light he imagined how this room would look. His wife stretched on the bed, uncovered and cold, like a body displayed on the lid of the tomb, her eyes fixed in the ceiling by invisible threads of steel, immovable. And in her ears the little Seashells, the thimble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk and music and talk coming in, coming in on the shore of her unsleeping mind. ”  From Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

It’s a brand new product presented on the Today Show last week among other products marketed to get us through summer: waterproof earbuds. Now when you go swimming, music or talk, noise of some sort, can follow you, even underwater.

Just think! There’s one more place to escape silence. But why do we work so hard to avoid silence? Why are our own thoughts something to run from?

David DiSalvo in Psychology Today says most of us just can’t stand to be alone without a distraction–technology or other people:

“Timothy Wilson, psychology professor at the University of Virginia (U.Va.), and colleagues from U.Va. and Harvard conducted 11 experiments to determine how well people tolerate a few minutes of quiet time. They tested a broad age range, from college students to folks pushing their 80s, and found a consistent result: people have a hard time tolerating even a few minutes alone with nothing vying for their attention.”

Chris Masterjohn, PhD, agrees: “[S]ilence can often cause restlessness and anxiety when we are not at peace inside.  In silence, our attention is drawn inward, to all the contradictions, anger, or frustration that might lie there.  Listening to music, watching television, and filling our lives with various types of noise can often drown out this silence so that we can continue to postpone dealing with these issues.”

But it’s not just that we aren’t dealing with our own internal issues when we seek distraction from them. Relying on noise to distract us affects our health and our dealings with others.

“Noise also affects our heart-rhythm and blood-pressure, and the way we behave towards one another. The louder the noise, the more aggressive we become.”

In our time, silence is a worthy pursuit, and pursue it we must.

Robert Sarah writes,  “Sounds and emotions detach us from ourselves, whereas silence always forces man to reflect upon his own life.”

When God’s prophet Elijah was fleeing persecution, he witnessed, first, a wind strong enough to break rocks, then an earthquake, and then a fire. But the Lord was not in the noisy disruptions of Elijah’s environment.

The Lord was in the still, small voice that asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (I Kings 19:11-13 NIV).

He alone can comfort us in our fears. He alone can heal our inner turmoil.

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 NIV).

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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34 Replies to “Filling Emptiness with Noise”

  1. Great post and so true. We must learn to appreciate quiet times to hear God and to improve our health. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    1. Thanks, Yvonne. I’ll confess I’ve been prone to filling the noise over the years. But one writes best–or writes at all–in at least relative silence. God bless!

  2. Nancy, I really enjoyed your article. I totally agree that we can look for God in all the action and whirlwind of life, but it is often that we will hear God speak when we become still and silent. I also appreciated your comment around how we can tend to fear silence because it is where we must sit with our stories and reflect upon them. But the sad thing is if we don’t sit with our stories, it is so hard and almost impossible to work through them and experience change and growth. Thanks for your thoughts!

    1. You’re so right, Anne. We don’t want to do the work of dealing with our own stuff. Just think, before radio and telephones, people didn’t have much choice but dealing with their inner selves. Thanks for commenting. God bless!

  3. Great post. It is almost uncanny how prophetic some parts of Farenheit 451 were. The “family” and the seashells and even the rudeness of drivers all reminds me of our day – earphones, distracted people everywhere, reality TV… and so much more.

    1. So true, Heather! F451 is one of the dystopias I love to teach. And I am so surprised at how prophetic that book–and some others–were even though they were written decades ago. Thanks for commenting! God bless!

  4. This is so true. I try to have more silence and I think it is so restful and refreshing. I agree that adding in noise drowns out what God is saying to us and what we need to realize about ourselves. Thanks for this!

  5. This is so true for our culture today–constant noise. I feel like I am the product of being raised around constant noise. I hate silence but have noticed increased anxiety due to media overload. Whenever I turn things off, breath, close my eyes and sit in silence…that’s when I find my peace.

    1. Yes, Bailey! I often think of my father–who spent the first four years of his life before radio broadcasts began. He was the sixth of 11 children, so quiet was probably a yearning his mother had. But there was no piped in noise–and no headphones! Those kids actually played with each other! Thanks and God bless!

  6. This is crazy Nancy. I was just talking to my sister about this. My morning and afternoon commutes to work are often in complete silence. Tvs and radios hardly ever come on when I’m home alone. I don’t even notice until I’m driving someone that the radio is not on, but 100% of the time, when someone hops in the car and we drive for a few minutes, they mention that my radio is not on. I’m not sure what we a running from. I like silence because I consider those moments my conversations with God. I can’t hear Him or think clearly with too much interference.

  7. There is a fine line between having too much noise and too much silence. I have been wrestling with this over the last month or so myself. Thanks for the encouragement!

  8. I think this is an interesting way to look at things. I attended Quaker meetings for a while, so there is beauty through silence. However, I personally never have silence now. If it’s silent I have praise music on, and God speaks to me through that. Thanks for sharing!

  9. I love having time alone with my thoughts because God speaks to me and gives me new revelations about His word which I’m meditating on. Having that alone time with nothing vying for your attention is actually really essential in your Christian walk!

  10. Thank you for this post! I am definitely prone to filling my life with noise. Lately, though, I’ve found that sitting alone in God’s presence has been the most rewarding time. Thanks for this sweet encouragement!

  11. It seems the thing we’re most afraid of is ourselves. Yet, sadly, filling the silence with noise only alienates us further–from ourselves and from the One who made us. I think “be still and know that I am God” brings with it the corollary “and you are not.” Which leads us to a place where, as you say, Nancy, God “can heal our inner turmoil.”

    1. Well said, Mitch. When God tells us to be still, it’s because we are not. We seek peace when we fill ourselves with noise–but the noise only prevents us from getting to the source of peace. Thanks for commenting! God bless!

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