The Value of Silence in an Uncertain World

You’d think in the Time of Covid I would be scrambling to listen to music, to soothe myself with rock, classical, new age. Anything to distract from the nagging fear looming over my shoulder that the person at work not wearing a mask is going to infect me, and with my high risk status, I’m a goner despite MY mask. Music should give solace to my uptight brain. 

It didn’t work out that way. 

Sometimes I listen to 70’s and 80’s rock going to and from work. It’s mindless, it reminds me of childhood, some songs are even uplifting. It gets me through the commute without too many four-letter words. But at home or on walks, I listen to the silence. The hum of the refrigerator, the whir of a fan. Birds chirping outside the window. The wind roaring through the trees. (Wyoming has some hellacious winds, up to 35mph on a normal day. No pleasant breeze here.)  On a walk, I hear my footsteps. Children shrieking on the playground. The growl of an untuned truck engine. Easy enough to let fade into the background. 

Silence has value. 

Experience has taught me that silence is a part of the spiritual discipline of a votary of truth. Proneness to exaggerate, to suppress or modify the truth, wittingly or unwittingly, is a natural weakness of man, and silence is necessary in order to surmount it. 


It provides balance to a world beset by noise, 24/7. The world shoves itself in your face, demanding to be heard, looked at. Feared. Nonstop news, advertising, all demanding my attention. I feel the uncertainty I carry receding as I chose to turn off the tv, shut down the computer, and pick up a book. Or weave. Or carve a woodblock. 

Silence has energy.

“You will at once feel your senses gather themselves together; they seem like bees which return to the hive and there shut themselves up to work without effort or care on your part. 

St. Teresa

It recharges my mental batteries and relaxes my body. My mind slows down. I hear and see things I’d ordinarily pass over. As a writer, that’s a prize. As a human, it’s precious. We’ve forgotten how to find peace in our lives. Peace brings balance. The hardest thing to do is turn off the running dialogue in your head. Without the constant uproar, ideas percolate unrestrained. Poems sing through your head. Connections are made from unconnected thoughts. 

As a writer, who wouldn’t want that?

Scientifically, it helps your brain and overall health. If it all sounds very Zen, it is. And it isn’t. Each religion has a special place for silence in its practice. But you don’t need religion to help you find silence in reflection. Just a willingness to step away from the world, to disconnect for a little while. It’s hard at first, but nothing gets easier without practice. Practice being yourself. Silence can teach you that.

Listen to silence. It has so much to say. 


A Mental Mugging

I had the occasion to be in several waiting rooms the past week and found the same annoyance in all of them. Blaring televisions, usually spouting a certain unintelligent ‘news’ station. It’s damn aggravating. And people are just riveted, staring at the black box on the wall, drool dripping down their chin. Well, I may have exaggerated the last part, but not by much. Vacant eyes and vacant gaze.

When did we start undervaluing the benefits of silence? Is internal contemplation so painful we have to fill every waking moment with noise?  Am I alone in preferring my wait time not be populated with background blather? The worst I do is read a book, check Instagram for pretty pictures, or do some navel gazing. And I’m trying to phase the book and phone out and just use the time for a little mindfulness practice.

Several people mentioned to me my place of work should have some background music in the office. Oh, hell no. First comes the inevitable fight over country or pop. (Nobody listens to the blues anymore.) I would hate the constant, insidious noise leaking into my brain. Worse if it was a radio station with its irritating commercials and shouty preaching. I pity retail workers, especially at holiday time. How many Rudolf’s can one person take before they snap and stab a customer with a candy cane?

Silence. Consider cultivating some. Embrace it. Reflect. What would it hurt? You may learn something, or may just learn the lack of noise makes you very uneasy. All progress. Or you can be like me when you find yourself alone in the waiting room. Reach up and snap the television off.

There, I feel better already.

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