Fifty-five years ago Paul Simon wrote words and created music which gave birth to a song that has become a haunting standard.
The Sound of Silence tells us about our failure to communicate and inability to love one another. But it begins; "Hello darkness, my old friend. I've come to talk with you again" setting the listener on a dual pathway marked by both quiet contemplation and meaningful action.
These practices are essential if we are to find serenity. Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness (Luke 5:16) and the Buddha used meditation as a means to enlightenment. Both teachers set an example so that their followers might to do likewise.
From Moses to Elijah to Muhammad and in every religious/spiritual tradition, we are told to embrace silence for inspiration and as an anchor for what we do and say.
I wrote a curated content article last year about Mindfulness and Meditation which explored how to use prayer and contemplation in daily life. As my personal practice of prayerful silence has continued over the following months, a deepening appreciation for it increased significantly. One of my discoveries is that as noisy and chaotic as things might be on the outside, they are equal to or exceeded by the clamor and disorder in my head.
Finding a quiet place is easier than subduing my internal chatter. Where shutting a door and creating a conducive atmosphere may take some effort, hushing my monkey-mind requires patience, practice and discipline. There are lots of techniques, websites, and apps out there to provide guidance. One of them called Ten Percent Happier by former skeptic Dan Harris is particularly good. It takes participants from the basics to pretty advanced meditation. But whatever resources one might choose to find silence, the resulting serenity is well worth it.
It would do the world a lot of good if we could stop the shouting and fighting. But this cannot be achieved if there is little going on in hearts but greed, fear, loneliness, and resentment. We can see the effects all around us in the rise of suicide, bullying at schools, mass shootings, addiction, and trauma related mental health problems. All truly good things must come from a calm, loving center core. Otherwise, they will be ego-driven and self-serving.
I don't think we can continue down the way we are headed without disastrous results. There is too much pain, too much sadness, and too much hatred. There are too many victims at the side of the road and too few Good Samaritans to bind up their wounds. We have to quit talking and start listening.
For that is the basis of good communication. Perhaps the words of the prophets really are written on subway and tenement walls. The path to serenity is hiding in plain sight. And once discovered, the sounds of silence will lead us to lasting peace and serenity.