Having lived and worked in the three busiest cities of the world – Mumbai, New York and London – during the past several years, I know what noise explosion is. Industrial, mechanical and man-made noises continually assault our ears in these cities. “The human race has stamped its authority over the planet earth not just by covering its surface with concrete and destroying its plant and animal life, but also by burying the natural sounds of the earth beneath a cacophony of man-made noise,” says Steven Taylor. (New Renaissance Magazine: Vol. 8, No. 2). Artificial noise explosion, as opposed to the natural, God-made state of silence and stillness, diminishes our ability to withdraw, to think, to reflect, to contemplate and to pray. We have almost befriended the artificial noises of the modern age that we keep inventing more noisy machines and gadgets. In a way we can say that we take refuge in noise. And thus we automatically become the enemies of silence.
St John of the Cross, a great mystic, in his Spiritual Canticle, speaks of the 'silent music'. He explains this paradox as the harmony of creation. Every element of God’s creation – the earth, the seas, the sky, the plants, the creatures and, above all, humans together create a harmonious music with no sound. This harmony is disturbed when we create artificial noises. When the order in nature is disturbed, the creatures become restless. This restlessness is the opposite of peace. And when peace and harmony are lacking, there cannot be freedom and progress.
The solution to today's restlessness and disharmony is our return to the state of silence. Jesus had challenged his followers with this idea: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). Dynamic and harmonious silence leads to rest and peace...to rest and peace of mind and body. In our state of rest we listen to God speaking to us through the sacred scriptures, through the sweet sound of nature, through the events around us and and the longings of our fellow humans. A realisation of God's goodness leads us to the recognition of our worth as humans who are created in God's own image. It is in our silence and stillness that we can also appreciate and accept others as our brothers and sisters. We thus grow in our sensitivity and compassion for others.
Silence is not merely the absence of external, artificial noise. One can return to the harmony of silence and solitude even in the busiest and noise-polluted place. At the same time one cane be disturbed and restless even in the most solitary of places. It is a state of our mind. Wherever we are, it is possible to withdraw, be still and enjoy the fruit of silence.
“God is the friend of silence. His language is silence. And he requires us to be silent to discover him. We need, therefore, silence to be alone with God, to speak to him, to listen to him and to ponder his words deep in our hearts... For silence can give us a new outlook on life. In it we are filled with the grace of God, which makes us do all things with joy.” – Mother Teresa of Kolkata