Finding balance in a chaotic world

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December 2017
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The Sound of Silence

SilenceNo, not the Simon and Garfunkel song. When was the last time you experienced true silence? In today’s world, it seems like silence is something we constantly fight against. iPods, having the TV on but not watching it, white noise makers, inane radio, and even signing in the shower all serve to distract us from silence in our daily lives. Why is that?


Have you ever been sitting at work or school and suddenly the air conditioner stops? That is the moment you realize that there has been this noise going on the whole time. Suddenly it is a little eerie, like there is a hole out there that needs to be filled. Funny how the sound just blended into the background and you did not even know it was there.


One of the more powerful tricks in negotiations is to sit back and say nothing. Just wait for the other person to speak. It won’t take long for that silence to become uncomfortable and the little person inside of you starts yelling at you to say something, anything. It is amazing how often someone will agree to something just to break the silence. It is equally amazing how awkward that fifteen to thirty seconds of silence can be.


Why is that? Why is silence so threatening to us? One of the reasons, I feel, is that it forces us to think and examine ourselves. Without some kind of aural stimulus, our thoughts become our primary focus. We are forced to listen to our inner monologue and that can be a little scary. But it is during these times of silence that we can learn the most about ourselves.


Try this experiment some time, it will only take about 15 minutes. Find a quiet place in your house. If you cannot, try sitting in your car with engine off. Sitting in silence, close your eyes for a few minutes and think about something that is currently bothering you or you are struggling with. Think about the issue and the possible ramifications or solutions to it. Continue to think about this issue or another one and go through the permutations. Now open up your eyes and think about how you feel. Did you become so focused that you forgot about where you were? Did you feel your emotions changing in response to your thoughts? Did you get angry, stressed, or excited?


I have found that by simply going to someplace quiet, you become more contemplative. You can think about the various issues in your life and with no distractions going on, actually make some plans about them. It is amazing how quickly an errant sound can jar you out of a deep thought and trying to get back into that state is almost impossible, like waking up from a dream and trying to go back to sleep and return to it.


I think this is one of the reasons why I like camping so much. Just lying there in a tent with a thin nylon wall between you and the evening sky. You hear lots of sounds you normally never do and so the night sounds fade out as you think about things in your life.