And the Rest Is Silence

“[The demon Screwtape writes:] Music and silence—how I detest them both! How thankful we should be that ever since our Father entered Hell—though longer ago than humans, reckoning in light years, could express—no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all 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. We have already made great strides in this direction as regards the Earth. The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end. But I admit we are not yet loud enough, or anything like it” (C. S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters).

Whenever I go hiking at Radnor Lake, I love the quiet solitude. What annoys me is when I see people coming toward me and they’re having conversations loud enough for me to hear half a mile away. I get that other people come to Radnor for the social aspect, but I like the silence.

In this culture, silence is almost a dirty word. People fill up all the voids and spaces of their day with some kind of noise. It could be a TV in the background or keeping headphones on all day. From the moment they wake up until the moment they fall asleep, many will not have a single moment of silence in their whole day.

I think in terms of mental health, some amount of silence is good. Nonstop noise isn’t healthy. Plus, creating margins of quiet in your day is inviting God to speak into your life. It’s giving yourself space and time to hear what God may already be speaking to you that you can’t hear over the constant noise.

I’ve known people to go on retreats where they don’t talk or have music or any other sounds for a whole weekend. I don’t know if I’m disciplined enough to do that, but part of me yearns to have quiet from time to time. Sometimes, the hardest part of being quiet is stilling the voices and noise inside your own head. If anyone has good ideas on how to do that, I’m open to suggestions.

The point is that silence is good, and a break from noise isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

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