During a recent cool night, I decided to spend some time with the old JVC ghetto blaster. I first skimmed through the shortwave band, in search of international broadcasts (DXing). The atmosphere was unfriendly that night; nearly every station’s fade out lasted longer than its reception. There were a few that the JVC could lock in on: one station broadcast propaganda in Chinese; another in English; along with four or five featuring pulpit pounding preachers.
So, with nothing compelling to hear, I switched the radio to medium wave (standard AM frequencies). The dial was cluttered with political talk and more pulpit pounding. As the night turned out to be a disaster for enjoyable DXing, I resorted to the FM band. Thankfully, Nebraska Public Radio came to the rescue with the final movement of a Beethoven sonata. As the announcer back-announced the musical piece, he reminded his audience that it was fund-raiser week. If you’re a regular listener of publicly funded radio, you know the spiel–blah, blah, blah–upselling the channel. I’m a regular contributor to the network and I was not in the mood to hear constant sales pitches.
I switched off the ghetto blaster. The room went silent. I could only hear the tinitus that crops up whenever I’m frustrated or stressed. I moped around, griping to nobody in particular that the state of modern broadcasting is in dire straits (not the rock band). To emotionally simmer down, I switched off the room lighting then settled into my favorite easy-chair. Whoever coined the old proverb, “Silence is golden”, was spot on.
I have an ambivert’s love of silence and a moderate tolerance of solitude. To be bombarded with idle chit chat, propaganda, and prosyletizing is particularly tormenting. The dark, silent room felt like a healing balm to the mind and body. Eventually, mental calm returned.
Society amuses ourselves with inauthentic words. We talk and spread harmful and dysfunctional ideas because we cannot help ourselves. With this constant onslaught of “information” we drown in the sea of blah blah blah. With so much verbalism and chatter, we deprive ourselves of meaningful introspection and reflection. One group denounces other groups while those other groups retaliate with their own denunciations. There is no seeming end to the empty promises and upsetting threats. The words of transformation, salvation, and security are empty and foster cynicism.
Some people may believe that I’m unhappy, but I’m not. I simply appreciate golden silence and time away from blah blah blah. I’m thankful for friends who enjoy meaningful conversation. Even more precious are those who are comfortable with being silent together with me.
The world’s wisdom traditions and major religions basically agree that the “evils” of the world include adultery, assault, murder, theft, and aimlessness. They further teach that evils of the tongue include, verbal abuse, lying, slander, telling partial truths, error, hatred, and idle chatter. Yet here we are, in a world filled to overflowing with all of the troubles listed above.
Most of us engage in the evils of the tongue to some degree–none of us are totally innocent in this regard. In the end, we find solace in simple things like watching nature, evening strolls, sharing meals, and contemplation about life. It is true that homey simplicity enables us to discover the profundity of life if we are silent enough to hear it.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the 16th century Roman Catholic theologian, Lorenzo Scupoli. “… do not listen to vain and empty talk, in which the majority of world-loving people spend their time, and do not take pleasure in it. For the law says: ‘You shall not raise false reports’ (Ex. 23:1). Solomon says: ‘Remove far from me vanity and lies’ (Prov. 30:8). The Lord said: ‘But I say to you, every idle word that men shall speak they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment’ (Mt. 12:36).”