Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Sound of Silence

“Quietude, which some men cannot abide because it reveals their inward poverty, is as a palace of cedar to the wise, for along its hallowed courts the King in his beauty deigns to walk.” - Charles H. Spurgeon

One of Mrs. 4thluv's favorite places to visit is New York City. The Big Apple. Broadway and Times Square. The Empire State Building. People. The hustle and bustle of millions of people going about their daily tasks in close proximity to one another is exhilarating to her.

I don't really like New York City. I have been there for both business and leisure. The people are kind enough. Even going to a Braves game at Shea stadium wearing a Braves jersey didn't upset them too much. New Yorker's probably get a bad rap for their manners.

Now to be fair, I have only been to Manhattan and Queens, two of the nicer boroughs of the city. (I was warned to stay out of the Bronx when I wanted to go visit Yankee Stadium). But I still don't like New York City. To me the city smells of Bourbon Street on a hot summer day. The traffic is like 285 in Atlanta at 3:00PM. The buildings so large that often you can't see the sky. And when you do, it is gray and smoggy.

Those things aside, it is the noise that really gets to me. Cars honking, workers shouting, subway trains going by, jack hammers rattling, cranes lifting, ferry whistles, sirens blaring, planes flying over. (Some find these sounds "thrilling" - you can have them.) To tune out the noise you would have to tune out life. The noise goes on 24/7. New York is not my kind of town.

But you don't need to travel to New York City to be filled with noise. New York City comes to us. Today's society is filled with way too many noises. TV's have to be left on, music playing, cell phones ringing. The noise gives to us a "sense" of being connected to others, so we do not feel alone.

One thing you don't hear a lot of is quiet. This society finds "quiet" disturbing. Perhaps it is because of the the fear of being alone with ourselves.

I can recall growing up in the 1970s and early 1980s that quiet was easier to come by. In those days, there were no 24 hour news channels, in fact, until I was in high school, there were no 24 hour television stations. Daytime afternoon TV was all local programing, usually kid's shows poorly produced. Prime time shows were limited to 3, whatever was on ABC, NBC or CBS.

Until I was 11, our family had only one TV in the house, and it was in the living room. As a result, TV shows were decided by popularity (i.e., what the parents wanted to watch), and the loser (ie., those who didn't like that show and me). Being the youngest of three children, I either had to learn to like what someone else liked to watch, or I would have to go find something else to do, like read. And I read a lot.

I spent hours as a kid reading things that boys normally read - the Hardy Boys series, Boy's Life, Mad Magazine (what a great magazine), Sport's Illustrated, and the Sunday funny papers. And it was easy. I could go into my room, open the window and listen to the quiet sounds of the night, and read. I solved the all the mysteries with Frank and Joe, wished I was Fran Tarkington, Bob Griese, Ken Stabler or Wilt Chamberlain (glad the last one never came true), laughed time and again at Spy vs. Spy and Alfred E. Newman, and couldn't wait until Sunday to see what Beetle Bailey, Snuffy Smith, and Marmaduke were going to get into. (I know, you are not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition. My apologies to Mrs. Lykins.)

I don't read those types of books and magazines much anymore. (Though Sports Illustrated is till a part of our yearly subscriptions.) But I still like that quiet, the solitude those memories bring back. That "not-having-to-be-around-people-and-deal-with-more-problems" space. I'm not a real emotional type person, anyway, and for me quiet time reading or studying is relaxing and introspective. (Some, like Mrs. 4theluv, prefer the term "moody" which is probably as good a term as any to describe me). But I do like my quiet - my alone time.

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. (I. Thes. 4:11-12)

I used a quote by Henry David Thoreau a few weeks ago as a comment on Scott H.'s blog. “Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing it is not fish they are after.” That quote made me think of Scott and his fishing trips, and his reflections on situations he has been involved with in the church. But it is also true of us all - we need time to reflect on our relationships, particularly with Christ. It is not the fish, the books, the magazines that we need, it is the time to touch base with ourselves and our God.

Sometimes, after we have tended to our business, worked with our hands, and won the respect of others, we need some time to reflect on ourselves. To think. In quiet. And reflect. To learn to be ok with ourselves, and to like the person that Christ is teaching us to be.

I think that is why I won't fair well in New York City. I can't get alone, away, and I can't catch my breath.

In the quiet, away from everyone else, I know its ok to be ordinary. It is away from the TV, the cell phones, the cars, the sirens, the music, that I find myself. And it is there that I understand my relationship with Him. Quietude, as Spurgeon calls it, reveals our inner poverty - but also allows the King to walk its hallowed corridors.

And, to quote Robert Frost, that has made all the difference.



Burt said...

tell mrs. 4theluv that she can join scott holmes and me on a trip to ny in a couple of weeks! yeehaa - a week on a bus, in hotels, doing touristy stuff with 150 other jr high kids and parents ... there will be NO quietude that week!

Malinor said...

amen! our society is too fast paced on the whole and it seems everything is reduced to efficiency and throughput. our literature is simple and focused on using shorter more direct sentences, concision (concise made in to a verb?) is the name of the game. give me info give it to me fast and get out of the way.
this comes through in all aspects of life, especially tv programming and advertising. why read a 5-6 hundred page book when you can watch the 2-3 hr movie. why wait 10 min for oatmeal when you can have it in 45 sec from the microwave.

I worry about our youth growing up in this kind of culture; maybe this is a contributor to the notable rise in the incidences of ADD (excuse me ADHD)? we never learn patience and solitude so when we get it we dont know what to do with it.

Scott H said...

I gotta say, as much as I love fishing, the best quiet times with God is 30 feet up a tree with a firearm in your hand.
Really, watching the wildlife, the silence, the peace, the long hours without seeing bambi. Fantastic quiet time with God. I highly recommend it! Life is way too distracting.
BTW, the week with Burt and the teenagers in NYC is NOT my idea of peace or quiet!

Kimmi said...

"Be still, and know that I am God."

Our Creator tells us what to do to know Him.