For Want of Silence
In July I spent a week in the North Cascades, in the shadow of Mount Baker. It reminded me that we are blessed to live amid some of the most astounding scenery in the world.
We camped beside a pristine lake, with snow-covered peaks rising overhead. At night the stars shone brightly while satellites traced their orbits along the Milky Way. Ice cold streams trickled through grassy meadows as osprey and eagles hunted in the piercing blue sky. Teenagers swam in the water while fathers taught their children the art of trout fishing. Conversations ran long and deep. It was paradise.
Perhaps the most wondrous aspect of the trip was the silencing of the world’s clamor. With no cellular connection, we missed the daily news of mass shootings, the latest Twitter outbursts of our president, and traffic Tuesday rants on Facebook. We were left out of all the anger, accusation and vitriol that marks so much of American society. Instead of a constant barrage of electronic noise, we had time to stop, to listen, to explore, and to think. It was marvelous.
The trip was part of a longer sabbatical I was granted by the Lakebay Church, during which I’ve been intentional about slowing down, disconnecting, and resting. I’ve seen firsthand that the modern pace of life is unhealthy and unsustainable, and, as a society, we are suffering for it.
Our media and entertainment won’t let up vying for our attention, hammering us with so much noise and meaningless clatter. Social media addiction is transforming us into mindless bodies, parroting talking points as we divide into warring political tribes. Everywhere we go radio or television is always on, and the only way to block out the noise is to stuff ear buds in our ears and listen to our individual play lists. It’s killing us.
Our souls cry out for silence, for quiet spaces of refreshment, deep thinking, and healing. We are assaulted with chaos and noise every day, and with no room to process it, we grow numb to the world around us and the reality of our own selves. In brokenness we medicate our pain with mindless drivel and the constant electronic stimulation that feeds our addictions.
On the other hand, when we allow ourselves to experience silence, we hear anew the voice of God speaking into our souls, bringing healing and hope and rest. In quiet spaces we often find the answers to whatever is vexing us. For my own sake and the good of the world, I am committing myself to the art of disconnecting, in order to reconnect with what’s more important, such as friends, books, walks in the woods, prayer, art, and play.
Finding silence requires drastic action. Turning off our phones seems almost sacrilegious to our electronic world. The trade-off, however, is worth it. Walks in the woods, meaningful conversations, and reading a good book on the patio are simple benefits, yet they will change us, and, in so doing, they will change the world. If silence is the best medicine, then it is imperative we all find some quickly, before the noise drowns us all.
Dan Whitmarsh is pastor at Lakebay Community Church.