I believe in the power of silence to inspire creativity and imagination. I believe that without a certain amount of silence in our lives the best we can hope for is the regurgitation of the ideas of others and a constant stream of the banal. Only by finding silence around us and within us can we find the original ideas in our own minds.
I am the single, working mom of a six-year-old daughter. I can choose the kind of noise I have in my life. I’d much rather hear my daughter’s singing than the Disney Channel. But those moments when I get to listen to my inner voice, or no voice at all, are precious. By the time she is in bed, I have a jewel of a quiet hour before I fall asleep myself.
Recently, I was waiting outside my daughter’s dance class, staring at a magazine to give myself an excuse to ignore everyone around me. I was looking at pictures of the desert, remembering past backpacking trips, enjoying the quiet. Another mom came back from her coffee trip and sat down next to me. “Please don’t talk,” I silently pled; I knew it was a vain hope.
This is a mom who stays home with her kids. Parent’s who stay home with their kids more than half-time need to talk to other grown ups to keep their sanity. I understand that, and I don’t bregrudge her the conversation we had that day.
But I’m a working parent. All day long someone is making demands on my time or just my mind. Even in my relatively quiet office there are always conversations going on; and at home I’m both parent and most available companion for my only child. Those brief hours when my daughter is doing gymnastics or dancing are really the only times when my brain can be both conscious and silent. Those few hours, when I am awake and able to think, and when no one is yelling my name, give me the chance to reflect, observe, create. They are rejuvenating moments for me and they come so infrequently.
Cell phone conversations, iPod murmurs, the increasingly ubiquitous of television broad- to podcasts. Even the night sky is noisy with the detritus of our cities; people can’t contemplate the stars in quiet indigo as they did even a few years ago. We have lost the audio and visual peace that produced the geniuses of art and science. What would a budding Mozart write today? Where would Thoreau find his voice?
Our choices in entertainment reflect the products of a noise-burdened society. The crew from Jackass. A girl from YouTube. Name three Hollywood celebrities. Any three. Now, name three novelists. I’m not saying they don’t have talent or at least spunk, but silence is the missing ingredient. Silence produces depth, heart, thought.
Now hush; I need a little quiet.
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