I used to cut grass a lot. Growing up, it became one of my around-the-house duties, and through high school and college it was a good way to earn cash. I spent many hours pushing a mower around, and it eventually came to be somewhat of a sacred time for me. The simplicity of following lines in the grass and the constant hum of the motor created space in my head for deep thought, creative melody-making, and revelatory prayer.
I cut my yard yesterday, however, and realized the experience has changed. I naturally went for my ipod before beginning, taking away the chance for that open space in my mind. In fact, I have my ipod with me nearly all the time, wether it’s plugged into my car or strapped to my arm with my nifty arm-band. I listen to music at work, around the house, in transit, and cutting grass. I almost can’t not be listening to music, or at least not have the option to if I feel the need. I am my generation, a product of products, and an entertainment whore. Well, I’m that at some level. At least I realize it. I have a problem that defines my generation but that I think affects countless Westerners regardless of age and sub-culture: I’m afraid of the quiet.
The world’s so noisy because it’s so fast-paced and over-saturated with entertainment. Countless media sources communicated through countless mediums means everyone is always able to be updated on what’s going on in the world. And who doesn’t like to know what’s going on? Movies, tv shows, and music are accessible with a phone and a wifi signal. But the constant buzz of communication (usually only one-way) and entertainment leaves a ringing in our heads that can be uncomfortable to sit with for even a moment. So the easiest thing to do is not sit with it. Keeping the space filled even keeps us from being aware of our condition.
But what’s in the silence that’s better than the noise? God? Sure… but balance is the key. Even the most secular modernist with good sense will recognize that balance in life is a good thing. A life of constant silence would be no better than a life full of noise, but few of us have to worry about constant silence. We do, however, need to seriously consider what no time carved out for silence will do to us. God isn’t limited to silence, or anything for that matter, but it’s where we seem to be the most attentive. Practicing listening – practicing silence – is tough but necessary for a holistic life. Life in the buzz that never ends will destroy us. Kris McDaniel at Trinity tonight said this generation has never before been more in the loop and less present. Oh, to recover what it means to be present. Silence is being eye to eye and hand in hand with whatever we set our minds on. That’s why we observe the monastics, the desert fathers, Jesus, the prophets, and even Isaac in the field all making time for the intimacy with God achieved in silence.