Again, I have no fool-proof suggestions to increase physical silence in your life. The success of any of these possibilities will depend on how badly you want more silence. On the other hand, “failed” attempts to increase physical silence can also be instructive. They might define my actual challenges and fine-tune my strategies. Such frustrations might point up whether I’m retreating from the loneliness that can accompany silence. Is my character up to that? Can loneliness be the grist for the mill to produce a blessed solitude? Is the enterprise detrimental to me and should I reconsider it? Is this just the wrong time for me to seek more silence? None of these are trivial questions and can be fruitfully pursued with good advice and and mature guidance.
But if you believe you are capable of greater silence and need more, have you considered all the possibilities? If you live in a city, silence can be hard to come by. But have you tried a secluded (and beautiful) private park like Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown (at 1703 32nd Street, NW) or the local Arboretum? Or a museum? Perhaps it has changed but the Freer Gallery on the Mall in DC never drew large crowds while the off-the beaten trail rooms at the Mellon Gallery (eg, housing the van Dyke’s and the Vermeers) were often deserted. Libraries are not as silent as they were when I was a kid but you can still find a quiet corner and pretend to look at a book. A busy mother can bring her kids to the library, keep an eye on them and just sit in peace for a few moments.
In the suburbs or the country, how about your own garden? You don’t have to be a successful gardener–but you’d have the excuse to go out and weed by yourself and monitor what you actually can accomplish. Talk to any gardener and most farmers: the point is to be outdoors, your feet on the ground and interacting with what’s growing. The point isn’t just what the earth produces: it’s becoming attuned to the seasons, the weather, the vital process of growth. It’s a spiritual activity and spiritual nourishment. It’s more satisfying than running a lawnmower.
Hanging out the laundry on a clothesline can provide wonderful moments of quietude and privacy. Once people find out you enjoy it, they’ll write you off as balmy and give you plenty privacy and silence.
What about limiting the computer to work or limit entertainment on Youtube, for example, to a fixed amount of time? Try reading a book instead–bound or on Kindle–but reading something that takes more concentration than a blog. E-communications can be great sources for information (and misinformation), but information isn’t thinking data to valid conclusions or networks of connections. So, how about scheduling a certain number of hours a week for serious reading? Try some great literature. If you want to grasp the Bible on it’s own terms and enjoy it, reading great literature can help you read the Scripture as the great writing it is. Once you hook into the imagination of the sacred authors, the Bible can come alive as never before.
Sometimes setting aside a special place can insure silence. I was raised in a small house but we spent most of the day in the kitchen: that was the heart of the house. The dinning room was only only used for holidays. If I needed to get away I could always sit in the dinning room. My Mom thought I was nuts but it worked. Just a corner, a chair in a particular place can say to everyone else: private! It’s one way to get more silence than not.
Have you tried stopping into church at lunch hour? There are still a few havens of quiet in our noisy world.
At work, there may be real limits on how you may impact your environment; but can you contribute less noise? Can you concentrate on one activity at a time? can you wear earbuds?–not necessarily plugged in, but there to muffle noise. And you’d appear fairly normal.
If some of you have suggestions that have worked for you, please send them in. You could really be helping another reader.
next time: interior silence