Meditation, writing and the problem of noise
Last night we went to the evening service at our church. This is not unusual; we normally go every week.
The relaxed, informal meeting included viewing another DVD in the “Nooma” series. Weâ€™ve already seen about four of these; all have generated good discussion times. Last nightâ€™s short film was called â€œNoiseâ€ and it featured about ten minutes of silence â€“ with no soundtrack â€“ and with just a brief text on the screen every thirty seconds or so. Much of the text featured scripture verses about silence, being still or quotes about noise, quietness and listening to God. The discussion was interesting and thought provoking.
In modern life we are surrounded by noise. One nature recordist was quoted as saying that it now takes over two thousand hours to record one hour of natural sound whereas in the 1960s it only took about 15 hours. Noise pollution is everywhere. Some of the noise in our lives is self inflicted; many people choose to turn on the radio, television or the ubiquitous MP3 player to fill their lives with sound. The ambient noise in most cities is a constant hum rising to a dull roar during rush hour(s). In all this clamour, how can we possibly think? With all this noise around us, how can we meditate on Godâ€™s word? With a lack of silence, how can God possibly get our attention and speak to us? Yes â€“ we are encouraged to have a â€œquiet timeâ€ but where can we go to find a quiet place in order to have a quiet time?
Some years ago I thought I would like to build a small writing studio up in the back scrub, a place well away from the house. This would be my writing retreat, a place to be quiet and let the creative juices flow. In todayâ€™s world it might just be more practical and more necessary to turn this into a prayer and meditation retreat instead (or as well).
Another problem highlighted in the discussion last night was the difficulty of finding space and time in our busy life schedules to just â€œbeâ€ in the presence of God. And when we do take the time, and find a space that is quiet, still and peaceful, distractions abound. These can be things like objects, the phone, books, things we need to do and the most insidious of all â€“ our thoughts, which can roam unfettered in all directions. Being focused on worshipping God is a dying art form in the lives of many Christians. This should not be so.
In applying these principles to my writing I find that there are many similarities. I find that distractions abound, especially on the internet. I can spend all day reading the blogs of other writers and find little time left to do my own writing. In my cluttered office I find so many distractions that take me from my core business which is writing. Generally the phone is not a major distraction, but visitors can be. Fortunately this is not as frequent as some writers experience.
Having a quiet room for my writing seems to be essential for me these days. There was a time when the family could be all around making all kinds of distracting noises and it didnâ€™t seem to matter. The television could be blaring and it not worry me one bit. The radio or music playing was welcome and people talking not a bother at all. That seems to have changed in recent years. Yes â€“ I can still write while there are distractions all around, but more and more I prefer silence, or at least as few noisy distractions as possible. We are fortunate that our street is a relatively quiet one, and our home is set some 60 metres from the road. Our nearest neighbours are all very quiet and their houses are about a hundred metres or more from our home.
Dealing with thought patterns seems to be the noisiest part of my life. Too often my thoughts take me off to places where I should not go, distracting me from the writing task at hand. Focus can be difficult; some days almost impossible. Physical ailments such as those BADDs (Beastly Awful Diabetic Days) I experience several times a week can also be awfully distracting, energy sapping and downright horrible.
I am learning to roll with them.
I am learning to be quiet.
I am learning to allow silence into my life.