St. Peter’s Church in East Sussex England sells a CD called The Sound of Silence, which is not (to my disappointment) a choral arrangement of the Simon and Garfunkel hit. The half hour recording is, literally, silence. There’s no choral rendition of “Me and Julio,” no sermons, not anything but the sounds of a 12th-century church. The traffic goes by occasionally and every once in a while there are footsteps on the old oak floorboards. Other than that—nothing.
The CD sold out.
People clamoured to buy a CD of something they must not be able to find in their everyday lives. Silence.
Could it be that the sound of “nothing” is so hard to get in our lives that we resort to paying to have it manufactured for us? We live in a noisy world. Even now as I write this, the clicking of the computer keys is echoing around the empty room, joined at intervals by the sound of traffic, the dog in the backyard, and the melodic musical styling of One Direction wafting from my cousin’s room across the hall.
What is it about silence that makes us crave little pieces of it? Too much silence is lonely, not enough is maddening. Silence can be comfortable with an old friend, or awkward after a terrible joke.
The silence that we like is the silence that we control. When we turn off the TV, turn off the phone, and quiet the kids, we are comfortable in that silence because we have created it. We don’t like silence when we think there should be sound. Kids should be making at least some noise, the phone should be ringing with that job offer, and the sky should be opening up Old Testament style with a message from God. The silence that we don’t control is the silence that makes us nervous and worried. It’s hard for us, for me, because it points a blaring neon sign to the things in life we can’t control. We want the ability to go over and eject the CD and return to our noise-filled life.
I have found that I need times of quiet to help me focus and centre on what’s important. Perhaps even more importantly, in the silence I can acknowledge that I’m, in fact, not in control of everything. I can acknowledge the existence of powers greater than my own abilities. By releasing my grip on my environment I am able to work through what is truth for me and, sometimes, to hear what I need to hear. Silence is when I might discover who I am, if only I am able to give up some control.
There is a lot to hear from silence—all we need to do is listen. Silence is golden, and definitely worth the cost of a CD (plus shipping and handling).