I was having lunch with my dad last week, and, as is our habit, we took a walk around Capitol Square afterwards. It was a warm August day, just after noon.
As we walked, I asked my dad, "Why does everyone always have iPods in? Don't they ever want quiet?"
"No. They don't like to be alone with themselves."
That's an odd though to me. I live alone, and I like being alone most of the time. I enjoy silence. There are times at my office when things are too loud and I turn off my CI. This actually isn't an uncommon phenomenon for us CI folks. In an article I was reading a while back, a little girl who just got a CI would take it off, hand it to her mother, and say "I don't want my sound right now."
"The world is too much with us," reads one poem. Don't get me wrong. I love my iPod and it's great when I'm in the car on long trips, or working out. But I don't want sound bombarding me every minute of the day. I like to walk alone, or sit alone, and just let my thoughts go. I love singing along with the CD in my car, but there are also times when I like to drive in silence.
At Church, we had to re-institute the idea of "sacred silence" five minutes before Mass, so that people would be able to pray and recollect themselves. It drives me to distraction to see people chattering before Mass. Moments of silence are so hard to come by. But "it is the silence of the heart that God speaks," Mother Teresa said. We can say God doesn't talk to us, but are we actually listening for him? The Bible describes God as the "still, small voice" who spoke to Elijah outside the cave. God rarely does things like in the B.C. comic, where the caveman asks, "God, if you're really there, show me a sign." The next frame shows a huge theater marquee in front of him that says, "I'm up here!"
Most of the time we don't get those. And if we're constantly using our iPod, or cell phone, or whatever, then we're not really paying attention to the people around us. We're only marginally there.
The first retreat I ever went on was a silent retreat. A lot of people, when I told them, would ask me, "Three days of Silence!? I couldn't do that!" But I loved it. It was so easy, so peaceful. At meal times we didn't speak but there was a sense of camaraderie and sense of purpose. We were all fully present, in that meal, in that moment.
I want to be fully present.