Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Finding Quiet in the Noise
I had forgotten how noisy the city is . . . forgotten how it seems to hum even in the darkness of the night. There is constant travel fourteen floors down from my hotel room on the streets . . . horns blaring . . . sirens wailing . . . screeching tires . . .whistles blowing. The noise is constant like a heartbeat for the city. Then add to this base line hundreds of thousands of people moving up and down the street . . . talking . . . yelling . . . screaming . . . crying . . . and, singing. It is kind of like a melody line in music playing over the sound of traffic. There is noise everywhere . . . constant noise.
Yeah, I had forgotten how noisy the city is; but, what should one expect when they shove a couple of million people into Philadelphia proper . . . more than double the whole population of Montana spread out over the 147,046 square miles that makes it a state. I think it gets noisy whenever two or three people gather . . . imagine the noise when a couple of million are milling around. It gets noisy.
Since being in Philadelphia I have noticed that I do not hear as well . . . I have a hard time hearing . . . especially when I a outside. Now, I know it is true that the wife thinks that I have a hearing loss . . . something more than a husband's selective hearing loss . . . especially when I get into crowds. I know that whenever I am in a group of people I have to lean in close to hear what they are saying . . . but since being in Philadelphia I have turned to lip read (which I am terrible at). I just don't hear well and I do not think that the noise is helping.
I wonder how the people who live here put up with the noise.
I guess I never realized how quiet Montana is . . . or at least the part where the Keener Homestead is . . . or the parts where I am in the mountains. In the quiet of where I live I can hear the birds sing . . . I can hear the geese honk and the the Sandhill Cranes cooing as they fly over. In the night I can hear the cows mooing and the coyotes howling. I can hear the Rock Creek rushing down its banks. I can hear the wind rustle through the trees. I can hear the breeze move through the tall grass. I can hear the snort of a moose . . . the bounding of deer. It is amazing how much of God's natural presence one can hear in the quiet . . .
. . . but, here, in Philadelphia, I have not heard the birds sing. I have not even heard a dog bark. From the fourteenth floor of the hotel I have barely heard the wind over the traffic from the street below. This is a noisy place.
I don't know about anyone else, but I know that noise makes me irritable if I am in it for too long. Makes me grumpy. I need quiet in my life. I think the people in the hotel understand the noise of their city. In my room is a little note on the desk stating: "For added tranquility, please feel free to use the complimentary earplugs located in the nightstand drawer." Sure enough . . . there are two sets of earplugs in there. I don't think I need them for sleeping, but I am thinking about using them for walking around the streets of Philadelphia. Research shows that noise makes children and adults more aggressive . . . Philadelphia has a fairly high rate of crime and violence . . . maybe, they should be passing out earplugs on the street.
Noise changes a person. I can feel it and I have only been here for a little over twenty-four hours. I cannot even imagine what living here would do to me . . . I'd become a crazed pastor (well, more crazed than I am now). I could not live without the quiet. I feel sad for all of these folks. Sad that they cannot find the quiet in the noise.
I like to paraphrase the part in the Bible that tells us to be still and know God. I like to think that in that stillness there is also quietness . . . quietness because we need to hear God . . . in the birds singing, the wind blowing, the breeze moving through the grass. In all of this noise, where is the quiet?
If I am going to be honest, then I have to admit--like everyone else, that there is noise in my life that drowns the voice of God. These days in Philadelphia only serve as a reminder of that fact. The noise may not be caused by traffic or people . . . but it is still there drowning out the needed silence. The noise of problems in my life . . . the noise of relationships between family, friends, co-workers, and many others . . . the noise of the life happening around me that touches me directly and indirectly . . . the noise of loneliness, sadness, anger, hate . . . there is noise in my life. At times it gets pretty noisy in that rock garden between my ears . . . and, the reaction is the same. I get irritable and grumpy . . . I get aggressive . . . and, I get lost. Lost from who God created me to be . . . and, lost from God.
Yet, I know that there is a quiet place within all of us. A place where there is no noise. A place where the presence of God can be heard. And, I know that it does not matter where I am . . . in the noise of Philadelphia or the quietness of a mountain meadow in Montana . . . that quiet place exists and waits for me. I know that I just need to be still . . . to be quiet . . . and, listen. God's voice will find me in the quiet. I just have to keep reminding myself . . . be still . . . be quiet . . . even in the noise God is there.
With such knowledge I think I can make it. The crazed preacher is in retreat . . .