Let us be silent that we may hear the whispers of the gods.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson~
If you watch television at all, you have probably seen a man appearing in the most remote corners of the earth. He stops to make a call on his cell phone asking, “Can you hear me now?” It is possible to stay connected with others no matter where we are. I recently called my brother who lives in Honolulu. He answered his phone standing on a street in Las Vegas.
Even though we can stay in constant touch, is it necessary or even desirable? Due to the danger cell phones present, it was necessary to pass a law banning their use in cars. For a while I did not notice anyone calling while driving. In recent months I have noticed an increase again. A friend of mine told me of a conference she recently attended. Despite a request to turn off cell phones, the speaker was interrupted several times by electronic renditions of various melodies announcing incoming calls.
I don’t know what the calls in the cars or at the conference were about. In an airport I overheard people detailing the minute to minute progress of their trips. I am sure some calls are substantial and some even critical. But I have a feeling many are just so people can be engaged in conversation without any particular purpose. Do we really need to be in constant contact with each other?
Another meaning of the word cell occurred to me as I was thinking about this topic. A cell is also the cubicle or room a monk lives in when he is not involved in community activities. In his case, his cell is a place of solitude rather than a means of constant connection with others. Much of my writing has focused on better communication with others. But that doesn’t mean we have to engage in it constantly.
Even when we are not on the phone, there is often a radio or TV in the background. What would it be like if we spent some time in silence? We might hear our own thoughts. Maybe we would have a chance to get in touch with our hopes, fears, dreams and wishes. We might have a chance to reflect on our interactions with others, with nature, or with God.
I have suggested to over stimulated people that they turn off all the noise around them and sit in stillness for a while. It is amazing how many people find this prospect uncomfortable.
Plato said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Without stopping to reflect on our lives, we are like cogs in a machine with no awareness of our place in the larger picture. Some factories take their workers on a tour of the whole assembly line so they can understand the place and importance of their particular contribution.
A period of silence helps us understand how we fit in with those of our fellow life travelers. We have time to gain a sense of the path God has laid out and offered for our acceptance. We also get a better idea of our decisions and their implications. Rather than mindlessly plodding through life, we will be able to make more thoughtful choices.
- Do you feel it is important to be in touch with others every minute?
- What would it be like to have a few moments of silence?
- Can you learn to be comfortable with your own thoughts?
- Try tuning into your own thoughts and feelings?
- Learn to enjoy silence.