The Anxiety of Silence

“All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.”

Blaise Pascal. 

I have always loved music.  I remember coming home from school in Grade 2 and finding a new record (yes, I’m that old) by our record player and listening to it OVER and OVER and reading the liner notes and reading the lyrics and pouring over it.  I remember having $40 in junior high to be able to buy my OWN walkman so that I could listen to my music whenever I wanted to.

In high schoool, I always did my homework with either the radio on or the TV.  Not really watching, but having it on.  I still love to have music playing while I’m cleaning, or have the TV on while I’m baking or cooking.  If I’m busy I have to have it on.  I find it hard to sit and watch.  I would rather do something and have the TV on for noise.

When I go for a walk, I like to have music or a podcast.  When I’m in the car, I must have music playing all the time.  I love to sing along so if you see me at a stoplight, I will be singing.  I am one of those people.  

My mom, on the other hand, never plays music in the car.  She never has music going while she does her daily tasks.  She may have the TV on for noise, but not often.

I believe that having noise always in our ears is not necessarily a good thing.  I believe, and this is my opinion, that this world has become a place where people are anxious if there is silence.  Why do you think that people get uncomfortable when there is a “20-minute lull” in conversation?

Pascal also said, “The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens us.”  Even in the 17th Century this was a problem.  It has always been.  We are always clamoring for the things that keep us from our thoughts.  

There have been multiple studies on this fear of silence.  Our world with its 24 hour news and streaming music, has made it more difficult.  In response to this maybe this year, we can come to a place where we enjoy silence.  

I really love a quiet house.  I have four very loud children.  A few of my kids are introverts, but they, too, have moments of noise.  I spent some time during Advent prepping and getting ready for the holiday without any music or TV on.  I just wanted to be just alone with my thoughts as I prepped.  My heart and my mind were focused on the task and actually enjoyed myself.  

Every so often and especially, when I’m struggling with something, I don’t take headphones with me on a walk and I have conversations with God as I walk.  Sometimes, I just listen because sometimes silence truly is golden.   (Not the case with toddlers)

C.S. Lewis said in Perelandra, “Inner silence is for our race a difficult achievement.  There is a chattering part of the mind which continues, until it is corrected, to chatter on even in the holiest places.” I am the first one to admit that my mind goes to my grocery list and my to-do list the moment I am sitting in church.  It is with great effort, that I stay present during a church service.  Something so simple is so hard.  

So how can we silence our minds? As moms, it is hard because we have clamoring kids,  and spouses and jobs and house care, and aging parents and…. Never mind the draw of social media.   I think, to echo my previous post on goals for the year, silencing our phones, even for a small portion of time may be good.   A sabbath from noise.  A rest from music.  Peace from the pandemonium.   It may be taking a 20 minute sit-down, when the kids are napping, or even right after supper.  Find 20 minutes.  Plug in the phone somewhere else and to just sit with your eyes closed.  If we fall asleep, fall asleep.  But rest in the quiet.  Allow yourself to process those things that you’ve been ignoring because of the noise.  Walk in the midst of those thoughts and then when a timer goes off, you may be ready to move on.  

Journal thoughts when you have another quiet moment might be another way to sit and allow the quiet to be.  I used to journal everything, but I have not in the last few years.  Life got too busy to spend the time, but I see the benefit and I still do it occasionally. 

I understand these ideas may not be anything new.  And maybe you need to use one of theElise Joy trackers to schedule the 20 minutes, but I encourage it.  Go for a walk, but leave the headphones at home.  Listen to the birds.  When you’re in the car by yourself, maybe don’t turn on music.  In the past week, I’ve meal prepped often without any music/Netflix on.  Trying to just be with my thoughts as vacuous as they sometimes may be.  Just let yourself to truly be alone with your thoughts.  Give yourself the freedom to sit and listen to the silence.  

Mother Teresa said, “In the silence of the heart God speaks.  If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you.”

The Bible has passages to back this up.  In 1 Kings 19:11-13, Elijah sees and hears this first hand,

“Then the LORD, said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD.  Behold the LORD is about to pass by.

And a great and mighty wind tore into the mountains and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind.

After the earthquake there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire.

And after the fire came a still, small voice.  

That still small Voice told Elijah what to do and how to honor His Name.  

We, too, might find that silence and quietness brings us to places we cannot even begin to fathom. 

2 thoughts on “The Anxiety of Silence

Add yours

  1. I do find having the silence can get to me. I too have always loved music and enjoy bee bopping around with headphones on, but you are so right that silence can be such a good thing. I need to have that silent time with God to reset my mind.

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