As a relatively social person, silence is an uncommon occurrence in my life. After class or work, I usually seek the company of friends, rather than choosing to spend a few hours relaxing alone. When I do have time to myself, I feel the compelling need to call someone, turn on music or create any kind of social distraction.
I think my dislike of silence is something many people can relate to. In a society consumed with technology and various forms of media, as well as a college life full of social opportunities, we have few chances to find time alone. However, due to recent circumstances out of my control, I discovered the rewards silence brings.
The stereo system in my car developed an incurable illness that has forced me to drive without music until sufficient funds or a technologically advanced friend fixes it. Whether I play CDs or the radio loudly or softly, the speakers emit a high-pitched whine. It’s similar, I imagine, to what those high frequency whistles sound like to dogs. The noise is so irritating I’m forced to turn off the song immediately, resulting in a silent car ride.
At first the silence bugged me. Usually, I would call a friend to chat or do anything – singing at the top of my lungs wasn’t out of the question – rather than endure a road trip filled with nothing at all to distract me. It wasn’t an obsessive need to create noise – more of an uncomfortable and unfamiliar lack of something I unconsciously felt I needed to make up for.
However, after a month or so of quiet car rides, I have come to appreciate these fragments of time I have completely to myself. Sometimes, I pray silently; sometimes I talk out loud. Sometimes, I sing worship songs or just drive and think. It sounds a little cheesy and trite, but spending a few minutes in silence while I drive has a noticeably peaceful effect on the rest of my day.
In discussion with a group of friends recently, someone reflected on her own experience with alone time this semester. She encouraged the rest of us to seek time for ourselves, whether while running or actually setting aside time simply for silence. Call it meditation, reflection, contemplation, whatever; even 15 minutes alone is enough to refocus, to relax and de-stress and to be away from all the noise. The Gospel of John mentions more than once even Jesus “withdrew to lonely places” to pray and step away from the pressure of life.
I had to wait for a broken stereo to force me to spend a few minutes alone, and although I hope it will one day be repaired, I plan to continue to enjoy a few moments of quiet whenever possible, because I have realized sometimes silence really is golden.