This I Believe

Kimberly - Eden, New York
Entered on November 21, 2005
Age Group: 30 - 50

In Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, there is a motto etched on a sign above a ruined library: “The world is quiet here.” These words echoed in my head one Saturday afternoon, after yet another cacophonous shopping trip. Suddenly weary from being surrounded by seemingly endless noise, it became glaringly apparent what I believe. What I believe in is silence.

After having spent large chunks of time in the company of friends, strangers, or anything with the capability to generate sound, I believe that silence is a vitally necessary part of every day existence. I grew up in the country, the only noises the lowing of neighboring cows and the breeze through the leaves of the beloved apple tree, where I would retreat with my books during the languid summer months. These days I find that without periods of quiet acting a counterpoint to the constant undercurrent of chatter, there is no hope to rejuvenate the spirit, no chance to come face-to-face with my own wants and needs. There are times in my life when the noise finally stops, and I can once more hear myself think (which is another type of chatter, but at least it’s the type largely within my control)–and I realize that I can also breathe normally again as well.

Does the world need so much activity that constantly assails the eardrums? Being in public can be tiresome in itself, but an attempt to find refuge in a place as mundane as a public restroom is invariably also destroyed, the peace shattered by someone’s loud, echoing cell phone conversation. Is this necessary? Sure, technology makes our lives a little easier. But it should not intrude upon what few solaces we have left. I feel justified in my irritation when it does happen.

Most human beings are bonded together by daily stresses, many of the audible variety: phones that ring ceaselessly, family and co-workers who demand our attention, honking automobiles–Regaining at least a little bit of sanity can be as simplistic as turning off the environmental noise within our control, and reminding our brains what it feels like to be free of distractions. I shared these feelings with my “Dynamic Presentations” class one Tuesday afternoon, and my instructor beamed. He related how on warm summer nights, he lies in a hammock in his backyard, simply watching the stars and being. This is a lesson so simply stated; yet it is largely unabsorbed by so many, those whom cannot even enjoy the silence that precedes sleep.

Adopting a hermit’s lifestyle is generally not an option for most. But perhaps imposed silence does not have to go to that extreme. Read a book. Watch the snow. Pet the cat. And like my instructor, just be.