Friday, November 18, 2005

Noise, Noise, Noise

By Judith

I often feel like the Grinch, slapping his hands to his ears to block out the singing and laughing of all the Whos down in Whoville. He couldn't stand the confounded noise. If it were only singing or laughing I wouldn't mind so much, but the constant din just drives me up the wall. And it's all coming at us at a decibel level designed to finally make us all deaf.

There's constant music in restaurants, in grocery stores, at sporting events, in department stores. You can't even escape it in the bathrooms of these establishments. It's even louder there. Dining out used to be a convivial experience designed not only to enjoy a good meal, but also to engage in a pleasant conversation with one's dining companions. No more. Every eating establishment, from fast food joints to upper scale restaurants has to prove that their Bose speakers are better than yours. It seems that there is at least one over every table. I find that I no longer look lovingly into my husband's eyes as we talk; I have to watch his mouth so I can read his lips to see what he's saying.

We were visiting our friends in Chicago last year and decided to have a late lunch one day. We were the only ones in the place except for the employees. We literally could not hear ourselves think, much less talk to one another. Our dear friend and curmudgeon, Gary, walked back to the counter and asked if the music could be turned down so we could chat. I could have sworn the guy he spoke to thought Gary had two heads, the way he looked at him. But he did in fact turn it down enough so that we didn't have to shout. Maybe there's a lesson here: ask and ye shall receive. It might not hurt to try once in a while.

But there's a larger question here. Why do we need to have constant noise in our lives? Take this test:

1. Do you turn on the television the minute you get home?

2. Do you sleep with the radio on?

3. If you're alone at home, do you need to turn on the tv or radio or slip a CD into the player?

4. Do you have your headphones on while jogging? on the bus? at work?

Why are we afraid to be quiet? What is there about silence that frightens us? E. F. Schumacher, in A Guide for the Perplexed says, "The modern world tends to be skeptical about everything that makes demands on man's higher faculties." And I think that fear tends to fuel skepticism, rather like whistling past a graveyard. If we have noise, we don't have to have thoughts. If we have noise, we don't have to think about ourselves, what we're doing with our lives, what we're doing in this world, and most importantly, what we are doing - or not doing - to prepare for the next world. The Bible tells us that God wasn't in the storm, but He was the still, small voice in the calm. If we don't have any calm, we can't hear the still, small voice. If we drown Him out, we don't have to listen. If we don't listen, we don't have to deal with what He's saying, because it just might demand something higher from us.

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