NEWS BLOG (WSAU) My family had an unusual experience when we moved from Brooklyn to Connecticut. It was too quiet. We especially noticed it at night, when it was time for bed. From the bedrooms of our old third-floor apartment you could hear the sounds of the city. Traffic. Street noise. We were close enough to the El that sounds from passing trains were inescapable. You lived with it.
When we moved to Connecticut, it was difficult to sleep because it was so quiet. You’d turn out the lights and get into bed, and then… nothing. It was as if being alone with your own thoughts – in otherwise complete silence – was unnerving.
It’s worse today. We’re always being stimulated… sights, sounds, electronics, social media (even radio) are part of the din of everyday life. We’re so engulfed by external stimuli that we literally don’t know how to unplug.
Consider this article from the Washington Post, where a religious order has built a secluded retreat for complete silence. People willingly pay $70-a-night rent to go there to just be alone with their thoughts.
Laity Lodge, sponsors of ‘The High Calling of Our Daily Bread’ commercials heard on WSAU, also have a quiet house at their retreat center in the wilderness near Leaky, Texas.
The concept of quiet reflection – processing what’s happened during the day, the week, or a significant period of our lives, is missing. We don’t know how to do it. We’re bombarded with information. We’re given no time to think about it before the next stimuli come along. The thought of being alone with our thoughts – no music, no books, no gadgets – disturbs us. We’d be bored. We wonder if we can ‘do silence right’. We’d feel unconnected.
I’m an information person. I like having access to data, facts, knowledge, entertainment, media. But I also see a value in stepping away for a short time, maybe for a day a few times a year. Space to think, reflect, and process.
Before the 1950s when commercial air travel was rare, businessmen would travel between New York and Chicago on the great luxury trains of the day. It was a 16 hour trip. They’d be unavailable from 5pm on the afternoon they departed until the following morning when they arrived. Trips to the West Coast could keep someone ‘in transit’ for three days. That’s unheard of today – powerful, important people being out-of-communication for extended periods of time. We knew how to disconnect then. No wonder why those trips were so enjoyable.