Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Trouble with Noise

My friend and I pulled weeds in the garden in the morning. We watered our plants and erected some new tethers for the flailing peas. Then we made pancakes in the kitchen while listening to Julie London and Nat King Cole. It was serene.

The prior day's conversation with a roommate flashed through my mind--mutual frustration over loud, antagonistic sentiment surrounding the day's controversial issue. We heard it from friends and teachers. It was talked about in the stores. It was blasted across the internet with characteristic rage. It was everything work in the garden and jazz in the kitchen were not; it was hostile.

Unfortunately, it wasn't unusual. It was consistent with today's gaudy, self-aggrandizing culture. In this, an era of rollicking music, finger-pointing politics, boisterous newsfeeds, and pervasive individualism it was wholly expectable.

But none of that came to mind as I talked with my roommate. All I could think was that it was noisy...and I was getting a headache.

Popular music rumbles with synthesizers, bass, and even animal sounds. Katy Perry roars louder than a lion. Dierks Bentley gets drunk on a plane. Imagine Dragons screams about radioactive stuff. Sia swings from chandeliers (though I happen to like this last song).

Politics is no less attention-whoring. Choose Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh on the right or Bill Maher and Rachel Maddow on the left; the common denominator is a penchant for attention-grabbing antics and shallow debate.

Haven't had enough? Scroll through your Facebook newsfeed: today's "it" topic is Kate Kelly's excommunication. Yesterday it was Bowe Bergdahl, and before that "Frozen" conspiracy theories. Throngs flood Facebook and Twitter with crass status updates, stereotypical memes, and links to vapid blog posts.

Can you hear yourself think over all the screaming?

The trouble with noise is that loud voices drown out sensible ones. Thoughtful minds rarely need to yell to get their point across. You won't see good ideas staring you down in all caps, and they aren't interested in competing with trending topics for likes and shares.

The truth is right where you left it, in the eaves, on the sidelines, waiting to be discovered but unwilling to fight with divas and drama kings for the stage. If you really want the truth you've got to go find it. It won't come to you over the airwaves, on the television screen, or in the latest hullaballoo on Twitter. It might come to you in academic journals, histories, or quiet moments when you meditate and talk to God.

There is place for noise in our world, but have we become so attuned to it that we've forgotten the sound of silence?