James Veitch, a very funny Youtuber, has noted in a Ted Talk that while the internet gives us access to everything, it also gives everything access to us. It opens one more door into our daily lives for those who would sell us something, tell us something, convince us of something. Billboards, radio, television, social media, email, tweets, buzzfeed…
Noise becomes the order of the day. It surrounds and penetrates us…shaping us in ways we often don’t realize.
There is so much noise that we have committed an entire field of study to the art of how to get my message through all the clutter so you hear my noise, because the sheer amount is overwhelming.
Communication and PR experts debate how many advertising messages the average American actually receives each day, but the one things that is not much debated is the amount of media we consume. Whether the number of ads that accost us rates upwards to 5000 or a measly 362 per day, the thing that no one seems bothered by is the incredible rate of media consumption. The Average American consumes almost ten hours of media per day. That is approximately 40% of our time on earth. And if the information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is correct, only about 19 minutes of that daily time is spent reading books…so it isn’t like we are lost in the classics.
Don’t misunderstand me. Being informed can be a good thing. And leisure properly practiced is a gift from God. (I love that the Book of Common Prayer has a prayer for the use of leisure.) However, there is a point at which it all collides into one indistinguishable and crushing noise that we inflict upon ourselves. So much of it is senseless…even (maybe especially) the “safe” DJs on the Christian radio stations inundate us with mindless chatter because ‘dead air’…a pejorative phrase for something also known as silence…is the enemy for broadcast media.
I cannot help but think of what Screwtape says in C S Lewis’s book of that name:
[Hell] has been occupied by Noise–Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile–Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end….The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end.
Considering that, it strikes me as a good idea to lay aside some of the noise for lent and pursue silence. Turn off the radio in the car. Reduce the time on social media. Take a sabbatical from the news.
Information is useful; knowledge can be good and life giving. But just like everything else, we can overindulge and become addicted.
Note how quickly…and how many times…your hand moves to the radio nob without thought as you get into a car intent on driving in silence. Try to pay attention to the number of times you pick up your smart phone. (Confession time, when I tried to start a discipline of reducing my random smart-phone usage, I had to place prayer beads on top of it to keep myself from picking it up. I said several accidental prayers that day as my hand met the beads.)
Still, why the concern over silence? Simply put, quietness of spirit promotes repentance by positioning us to hear God’s call:
“It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.” Lamentations 3:26
“Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted” Isaiah 7:4
“In returning and rest you shall be saved. In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength” Isaiah 30:15
As Jesus said, “My sheep know my voice.” But if his voice is the quiet voice heard by Elijah, how are we to learn to hear it amid all the noise?