middot silence daily living silence versus tune-out

silence versus tune-out

Written by  rabbi benjamin ehrenfeld

art-onbusI find myself increasingly able to tune out the world around me. I find I don’t always need a quiet space to think clearly, pray, or meditate. In fact, I meditate quite often on long bus trips.

On the one hand, this seems like a good thing. The ability to transcend the chaos of the world around me to focus on God has benefits. However, there’s one added feature of this ability of mine to “tune out” the world that casts a bleaker picture on the ability: My head is usually very loud and active. Often, I am pondering something, working something out, struggling, imagining, etc. None of that is bad per se, but I realize that it might be my self-absorption that enables me to tune out other things more than some enlightened spiritual state.

I could blame the media which constantly bombards me with questions and answers about what I want and need through advertisements. I could blame the technology industry that consistently attempts to create individualized products. I could blame facebook which lets me imagine others care that I’m going for a haircut. I could blame the out-datedness of the “royal we,” hence this article where you’ve read 200 words entirely about me! Nevertheless, I think it should be easier to quiet my mind and harder to shut out the world around me.

My wonderful fiancée cannot stand eating out in environments where there’s a television screen in view. It distracts her. As a result, when we do go out to eat, we rarely go to places which have screens all over the place. The atmosphere does end up being better and we really do encounter one another more profoundly. If we need space from loudness, we take a break from it as opposed to learning how to tune it out (indifference muscles). Tuning out is sometimes good and necessary, but too much of it can dampen sensitivity to important things.

So, during this round with silence I intend to listen more to the environment I am in and quiet myself. While it is good to be able to pray and meditate even when the environment isn’t ideal I will choose to put myself in quieter places to commune with God. The truth is that it is each of us who needs to be quiet so that we can hear God and the world around us more clearly! The world is not meant to be shut out. Frankly, the world needs us. God has positioned us to serve others, and the earth itself. I pray we can all grow to silence ourselves so that we can hear both the loud world and still small voice.

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