SILENCE VS. NOISE

by BCBP Editor

tagaytay mountains
Last month our daughter Ruth and I enjoyed a 4-day contemplative retreat with Sis Carmeli Catan, my spiritual director, at the Canossian House of Spirituality in Tagaytay. We were encouraged to spend at least 5 hours a day in silence, listening to the sounds of nature, listening to our hearts, listening to the silence around us. The weather was in harmony with us, not too cool, not hot, with clouds chasing each other across the sky, sudden rains sweeping in sheets across the hills, followed by sun beams winking through the dark clouds. I walked barefoot in the grass, watched the butterflies among the flowers and birds in the trees, marveled at the glory of the sunrises and sunsets, and felt God’s presence all around.

We came back to Manila refreshed and recharged, realizing as we were again exposed to the everyday noise around us, that having a time of silence for rediscovering ourselves is a treasure.

Today’s world has so much noise assaulting our ears. Honking horns, ringing telephones and cellphones, radios broadcasting to the whole neighborhood, motorcycles roaring by, dogs barking, the taho vender calling his wares. As if these were not enough, we see people going by with ipod earphones in their ears, listening to the latest ‘sounds’ usually at high volume, rationalizing that this noise in their ears drowns out the unwanted sounds around them.

I grew up in a very rural area in the Vermont, USA, mountains where silence was a tangible thing and any loud noise was disturbing. We valued silence because in the silence we could hear the wonderful symphony of birdsong, wind breathing in the trees, our dog thumping his tail, raindrops on the windows, the tabby cat and her kittens murmuring contentedly in a sunny corner of the kitchen. And if you would listen close enough, sometimes you could even hear the grass grow! Really truly hear the grass grow!

All too often the sounds of real life are obliterated by a ceaseless cacophony of senseless noise. To maintain our sanity we learn to “tune out”, or immerse ourselves in white noise. But does this help? Medical journals and doctors tell us that such constant loud noise usually results in gradual loss of hearing, many times so slowly that we don’t realize it. And as our hearing lessens, oftentimes we ignore its reality and just turn up the volume!

Every day we make a choice as to what we listen to or what we tune out. We can decide whether to listen to the world’s noise or to the sounds of real life or to the sound of silence. We can decide to listen to what others say, or to our own thoughts, or to God whispering in our heart. We can make loud restless noises, or we can listen to the silent sound of quiet contentment. We can lose ourselves in the bustle of media hype, or we can be individuals who think original thoughts.

As long as we insist on hearing with our ears, the disquiet and disharmony will continue to be deafening. When we begin to listen with our heart, it is then that the meaning of life will become clearer as we will, like Elijah who fled to the mountain, be able to hear the still, small voice of God whispering His love songs to us and guiding our way.

I was touched when I read that Pope Francis’ special intentions for the month of September included a prayer for God to help quiet our minds and hearts. “May all of us today, who are so often overwhelmed by noise, rediscover the value of silence and listen to your voice, O God, and to our brothers and sisters.” Amen and Amen.

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2 comments

joe coruna September 15, 2013 - 5:07 pm

A beautiful experience in Tagaytay indeed. But I liked more Vermont , the place where you come from. It reminds me of the song by Frank Sinatra “Moonlight in Vermont”. There’s a story behind this song- how it was composed but thats another experience.

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Evangeline Q. Pico September 10, 2013 - 7:17 pm

nice sharing. sana maka-retreat dn ako dun.how much kaya cost no?

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