We live in a world of noise.
Robert Sarah, a cardinal from guinea, wrote in his stunning book, The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, [which is in my top 10 favourite books of all time], writes the following:
“Our world no longer hears God because it is constantly speaking, at a devastating speed and volume, in order to say nothing. Modern civilization does not know how to be quiet. It holds forth in an unending monologue.
Postmodern society rejects the past and looks at the present as a cheap consumer object; it pictures the future in terms of an almost obsessive progress. Its dream, which has become a sad reality, will have been to lock silence away in a damp, dark dungeon. Thus there is a dictatorship of speech, a dictatorship of verbal emphasis.
In this theater of shadows, nothing is left but a purulent wound of mechanical words, without perspective, without truth, and without foundation.
Quite often “truth” is nothing more than the pure and misleading creation of the media, corroborated by fabricated images and testimonies. When that happens, the word of God fades away, inaccessible and inaudible.
Postmodernity is an ongoing offense and aggression against the divine silence. From morning to evening, from evening to morning, silence no longer has any place at all; the noise tries to prevent God himself from speaking.
In this hell of noise, man disintegrates and is lost; he is broken up into countless worries, fantasies, and fears. In order to get out of these depressing tunnels, he desperately awaits noise so that it will bring him a few consolations.
Noise is a deceptive, addictive, and false tranquilizer. The tragedy of our world is never better summed up than in the fury of senseless noise that stubbornly hates silence. This age detests the things that silence brings us to: encounter, wonder, and kneeling before God.
Even in the schools, silence has disappeared. And yet how can anyone study in the midst of noise? How can you read in noise? How can you train your intellect in noise? How can you structure your thought and the contours of your interior being in noise? How can you be open to the mystery of God, to spiritual values, and to our human greatness in continual turmoil
Contemplative silence is a fragile little flame in the middle of a raging ocean. The fire of silence is weak because it is bothersome to a busy world.”
I love the last sentences:
“Contemplative silence is a fragile little flame in the middle of a raging ocean. The fire of silence is weak because it is bothersome to a busy world.”
The noise of modern culture continues to increase each day due to the rise of smartphones and the internet.
We all know the stats, the average iPhone user touches their phones 2617 times a day. The average person is on their phones more than 3 hours and 15 minutes a day.
Some brilliants nerds in Silicon Valley are working insane hours to ensure that this technology is designed to distract and addict us and sell behaviour modification to advertisers.
The billboards that used to be outside on busy roads are now inside our phones.
With the advent of social media, the noise levels have made a lot of people miserable.
The level of contempt and moral superiority has increased.
The lack of thick and intelligent nuanced thinking, has increased.
The shaming, and the rolling has increased, It is nasty out there.
We now live in a culture of outrage. Everyone is mad at someone, it is just a question of what.
This does not mean we shouldn’t be angry at a lot of injustices in our world. We should be angry about racism, gender based violence, injustice, poverty etc.
But we should be careful about the danger of anger. That we don’t become the very thing that we are fighting. That in our fight against hate, we don’t become hateful being.
James Baldwin in his book, The Fire Next Time says:
“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”
None of us want to deal with their pain. Behind every rant on social media, or a sporadic road rage incident, office outbursts, is a staggering amount of pain.
We need to careful of being sucked into the black-hole of outrage and fear.
I’m sure there are many way to achieve not being drowned by the noise of modern culture and I think for me, it is the practice of silence and solitude.
As Cardinal Robert Sarah says:
“The greatest things are accomplished in silence, not in the clamor and display of superficial eventfulness, but in the deep clarity of inner vision; in the almost imperceptible start of decision, in quiet overcoming and hidden sacrifice.”
The life of silence must be able to precede the active life.
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