The other day, in a rare moment of silence, I was thinking about all the noise. The non-stop, in-your-face, never-ending cacophony of noise.
When I’m in my car, I tend to flip between 170 channels of XM radio, usually settling on talk radio so I can hear what my favorite host thinks about the latest happenings on the campaign trail or in the stock market. I endure the commercials which entice me to clean the paste out of my colon or buy a CD so I can learn to process information ten times faster.
My iPhone buzzes in my pocket even as I drive telling me that I have a new text message or twitter alert or email. Or, as old fashioned as it sounds, perhaps someone is actually calling me.
At my desk, I struggle to focus as different types of beeps let me know that my attention is needed. I see hundreds of blog posts come through on the seventy-five RSS feeds that I track. I process more than 25,000 emails every year when I’m not answering the phone, leading meetings, making decisions and trying to be productive.
I finally get home…to the place I call a haven, and it starts all over again. The music in the background is ever-present, typically different types from multiple sources. One of my kids is practicing the piano, another is listening to her music, and a couple more might be tuned in to Hannah Montana or DinoSapien. Later on when it’s my turn, I flip the TV on to catch up on the latest thoughts from my favorite pundits on one of those “twenty-four-hour-we-make-up-the-news” channels.
My DVR allows me to never be without something to watch (which is awesome since I only have 300 channels to choose from), and if that’s not enough I can select from thousands of hours of fine viewing through the “on demand” service. With the push of a button, I can learn about war, automobiles, Obama, McCain, the stock market, Pamela Anderson, how stuff is made, how stuff works, how broken things get fixed, how to catch a very large fish, how to exercise, how to lose weight without exercise, and what the girls next door are up to.
The new season of TV makes the noise even greater. The series trailers convince me that must-watch-TV is not an option. I have to find out how The Mentalist made his Prison Break with the Gossip Girl and disappeared Without a Trace after stealing the Dirty Sexy Money from Chuck who was caught Dancing With a Star named Ugly Betty near the House of Eli Stone.
Some nights I’ll spend a few minutes killing bad guys on Xbox Live with eleven other people from around the world, listening to their incessant chatter through colorful words in various languages. I shut it down, check email one more time, pick up a magazine or put in the headphones before falling off to sleep—sometimes checking my iPhone again to see the latest news headlines.
And, the next day, it starts all over again.
It is the noise of life. And it never ends. And, if I’m not careful, the noise will keep me from hearing the sounds. You see, sometimes for me—the noise of life drowns out the sounds of life.
The noise keeps me from hearing the sound of my child’s voice and her tone that says, “Dad, I just need to talk for a few minutes.” The noise keeps me from taking the time for a hallway conversation that would communicate to a friend how much they really matter to me. Sometimes I don’t notice that my wife had a really tough day and she just needs to know I care—but instead I glaze right over the opportunity because of all the noise in my life.
It’s possible for the noise to keep me from hearing the sound of the still, small, unaggressive voice of the Spirit prompting me to hold my tongue or stop an action or take steps in a relationship. It is the noise of life that can cause me to forget a commitment, devalue a friendship, or underestimate the influence I have on those who are watching me.
The question I’m asking today: What can I do to minimize the noise of life so I can hear the sounds that really matter?
I need to spend some time thinking about this. That is what I’m going to do—right after I check my email, answer the phone, and finish last week’s episode of Heroes.
- By Tim Stevens from the November/December issue of Collide Magazine.