We all know the expression “Silence is golden”, yet more and more we seem to ignore its wisdom. Most of us are often hooked up to some kind of ear devices, listening to other people speaking to us on the phone, or listening to books on tape. We use the phone to stay in touch with people who are physically distant; tapes and CDs to learn as we travel, work, or go for a walk: music to stimulate us, to relax, keep us company, and trigger memories of a loved one, or of a time or a place meaningful to us. We also may use music just to be a background noise that we tune out as we go about doing our daily chores. Some of us turn their TVs on as soon as they get home, whether they watch it or not, and cannot go to sleep in total silence.
I think this situation creates a chronic state of sensory overload from which it may at times be difficult to break away. This noisy environment, I suggest, affects the way in which our brain processes external and internal experiences.
Sensory overload is an issue that is becoming more pressing, as young people are growing up exposed to this chronic state of noise from a very young age. Teenagers and young adults today may not know how to be without it. They claim they can study better if music is playing – or blasting – in the background. They converse while listening to their iPods at the same time. They no longer seem to notice or mind the many sources of noise constantly surrounding them. To them, this is the normal state of being.
While I acknowledge the value of sound for our survival and well being – one of the main ways in which we communicate is by sound; sounds alert us to dangers and make our lives fuller in many ways – I ask myself: Is there still room for self-reflection? How is this chronic sensory overload affecting us psychologically? And how does chronic noise influence the way in which we reflect? Have you ever thought about what our lives would be like if we lived with more silence?
I believe that, because we are so adaptable to all kinds of conditions, we will survive the effects of constant exposure to multiple sources of noises. However, I also think something gets lost in this adaptive process. The silence that allows our minds to quiet down, also allows our thoughts to wander. This creates possibilities for ideas to develop and for emotions to come to our consciousness more freely and spontaneously. This process may be different if unhindered by external influences caused by the constant noise of the external environment in which we live.
Creating a state of mental silence makes room for letting things happen on their own, I believe, without forcing or pressing them. It allows our mind to stand back and observe, and watch them as they take form and substance. By the way, I am not advocating that we all live in a state of total silence. What I am saying is that silence and noise have relevant roles to play in our lives, and we should make room for both.
What’s your take on this subject? Are you able to concentrate with noise around you, or do you appreciate and make room for silence in your life? Please join this discussion by sharing experience and make a comment here.