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20Feb 2010

I have been reflecting on the role of quiet (or the lack of it) in our lives — from two different perspectives.

Quiet in our daily life environments. I’m not sure we are aware of how much noise we live with. Not just the ambient noise around us — the air conditioner or heating fan, the hum of the refrigerator, traffic sounds, sirens, the announcements or music at airports, the TV at restaurants, people’s conversations around us — but also the ‘noise’ we bring into our lives.

I can be particularly bad about this — turning on the radio and listening to news while getting dressed; listening to more “news” while driving; having music on while cooking dinner; turning on the TV while doing some paperwork or light housework (the last example is hypothetical, not based in reality). Now, obviously none of these sources of information or entertainment has anything wrong with them but the real issue is a lack of quiet, mental space in our lives.

Why is this important? Because “quiet” gives us the opportunity to think and reflect. Mental space is the “garden” for creativity — we need uncluttered space and time to think new thoughts. Maybe this is why many of us enjoy taking walks in nature — the combination of the natural beauty plus the relative quiet provides an environment for reflection.

Quiet in conversations. I spend a fair amount of my time with people, including groups of people. And I am often amazed at how some people talk, and continue to talk, past the time they have much to say of importance. Conversely, there are many people who are thoughtful, observant and have valuable contributions — but they tend to not say a lot and often need to be drawn out.

When I went to college, a young adult friend of mine gave me some counsel before I left home. He (lovingly) told me I had the propensity to try to impress people, often by talking and drawing attention to myself. He suggested I just sit back, be quiet, and observe others — and then eventually engage in the conversations. So, for a period in my life, I became a self-induced introvert. And I learned quite a bit — how others (whom I was a lot like) really made fools of themselves by their constant chattering and dramatic interactions. This experience was really beneficial to me (I hope!) in allowing me to see how I sometimes came across to others, and gave me the opportunity to make different choices in my interactions with others.

I don’t need to say much else. I think the implications are fairly obvious. Take some time in the next couple of days and reflect on “quiet” in your life. Would you like your daily life to be a bit different in these areas?

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