BRIAN — DAY 24: Skydiving and the Silence of Our Surroundings

40 Days Searching for the Sound of Silence

AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi
AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi
My meditation time has been abnormally silent this week.

This is probably an odd claim to make. Silence, after all, is one of the principal goals of my Lenten enterprise. Acknowledging silent prayer as being quiet is a little like recognizing a sunny day for being bright.

I am beginning to learn, however, that no matter how calm I manage to become on the interior, I have only so much control over the racket around me.

I — we all — have to reckon with noise pollution. It really is extraordinary how much sound there is in each of our little pockets of life. It is a rare moment there is not something humming in the air. I have personally become so accustomed to a world dense with sound that I do not actively notice it anymore. I imagine many of us feel this way.

I try to be intentional about my meditation, but it is simply beyond me to stop a car horn from honking or prevent my landlord from using power tools upstairs. I do what I can to insulate myself from these disturbances, but they nevertheless feel like disturbances.

That is why I have been grateful for the real, almost total serenity I have encountered this week. Maybe my environment was cooperating with me in uncommon ways, but the fact that the silence stuck out is striking. As I said, I usually do not realize how much clatter there is throughout my day. Being so taken by increased silence this week is, to me, a sign of just how much a novelty it really is.

And it is a novelty I crave. I remember a friend once telling me he wanted to listen to Sigur Ros the first time he went skydiving. Having heard there is an extraordinary, almost otherworldly tranquility that comes while skydiving, an auditory nothingness beyond anything one could encounter on land, I told him I did not want to listen to anything.

As I see it, the lesson is to seek out these intense moments of quiet whenever we can. They are few and far between, and they are something to be prized whenever they arrive.

But because it is often not up to us when they do come along, the most we can accomplish is to try to develop the inner peace that might allow us to put some serenity back into our surroundings and, perhaps just as importantly, strive not to make needless noise.