Silence and Noise

Categories: Features

Ironically, as I am typing this, I am listening to some music. I do not exaggerate when I say that I have a sort of an addiction to music—especially secular music, as we will see in the songs I reference below. I almost always have some song stuck in my head throughout the day.

In addition to the constant barrage of mostly mediocre music filling our ears, who among us hasn’t been worn out from all the chatter that occupies our lives? I know I hardly enjoy scrolling through social media, and I often try to rationalize the hours I have spent immersing myself in this constant source of distraction. Many of the exchanges that take place there are vile, emotionally charged, irrational, and hurtful. Unfortunately, newspapers are often not much better.

There is also visual noise. People even compete to design things to be intentionally distracting and attention grabbing, taking advantage of our broken natures. These images have become so common in our lives that it can even make us forget the more real and important things. Before we know it, we are slaves to the noise. We know it makes us feel even more empty. We want to stop, but we can’t!

In the midst of such noise, how did I have the chance to stop and even think about silence? Perhaps it is because many others before me have also recognized this deplorable state and even composed songs about it that have become hits. Take Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence”:

“People talking without speaking,
people hearing without listening…

…and the people bowed and prayed
to the neon god they made.”

All that noise amounts to nothing but an idol.

Let us turn away from this idol and enter into the silence then.

This is not an admonition that I like to hear. In fact, I am often pained by it. The shock of silence is expressed well by Twenty-One Pilots’ song, “Car Radio”:

“I’m forced to deal with what I feel.
There is no distraction to mask what is real.”

“Silence is the guardian of all observance,” reads the Dominican Constitutions. We find countless reminders in Scripture that encourage silence. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). “God dwells in silence,” writes Robert Cardinal Sarah in The Power of Silence. Paradoxically, it is when we enter into the silence that we can encounter a true voice, just as Elijah heard the voice of God in a still small voice.

The student brothers have just returned from a long and arduous summer in contemplation and in studying ancient and modern languages to begin another year of studies towards dedicating our lives to use language for its true purpose, the spreading of Truth. As we come out of this short silence, we hope that whatever we say here will not be an addition to the noise, but will direct others to the Truth Himself, who meets us in the midst of silence.

Br. Francis Dominic Nguyen, O.P. | Meet the Student Brothers in Formation HERE