The Seduction of Noise: Advice From the 5th Century

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The Seduction of Noise: Advice from the 5th Century

The Seduction of Noise: Advice from the 5th Century

The seduction of noise. Do an online search and you can see a 21st century way of conceptualizing our addiction to distraction: noise pollution. Researchers have studied the effects of noise pollution and discovered its surprisingly broad impact upon adults and children.

But the subject of this piece is even more insidious. Truthfully, is there any sound more inviting or words more seductive than that of your own voice or reading our own words?

The young man from Norsia, doesn’t kid himself or us with convenient excuses. He knows the real danger is within each of us, not external at all but emanates from our own hearts, minds and wills. There is no one, nothing to blame but ourselves.

Always.

As a young, wealthy nobleman, Benedict was sent to Rome to study, but recoiled from the depravity and licentiousness he found in the great city of Rome, circa 500 AD. When he fled to Enfide, most likely, he had no intention of becoming a monk or of writing prescriptions for living life, for ordinary people in search of peace. One that would be called, The Rule of St. Benedict.

Like Benedict, I had no intention of becoming an Oblate of St. Benedict. But the need for deepening my faith and for a structure-a map for my prayer life- was a tangible thing.

Each day, with thousands of other Benedctine Oblates, I read the assigned passage written by a man who lived in an age not so different from our own. The reading for Friday the 25th of May reaches out to grab me.

Let us do what the Prophet says:
“I said, ‘I will guard my ways,
that I may not sin with my tongue.
I have set a guard to my mouth.’
I was mute and was humbled,
and kept silence even from good things” (Ps. 38:2-3).
Here the Prophet shows
that if the spirit of silence ought to lead us at times
to refrain even from good speech,
so much the more ought the punishment for sin
make us avoid evil words.

‘Sinning with my tongue’- or in these days of the lure of tweets and Face Book messages- with my written word…isn’t that a bit over the top?

A little too binding?

Why is Benedict so emphatic about the dire need for silence? And the risk of giving free reign to our thoughts?

Brother Jerome Leo is a Benedictine monk who pens daily online reflections on the daily readings of the Rule. The monk’s meditation on the reading from the rule emanates from years of work-the hardest work of all: taming that pesky ruler of most of us, our ego.

Here’s Brother Jerome Leo’s hard- won wisdom on these questions:

We don’t want our focus
scattered, because our work is to be looking at the very unlovely things
in our deepest self that distraction helps us deny or ignore. We have a
lifelong self-scrutiny and that requires a lot of dumping the stuff people
generally employ to avoid such truthful self-confrontation.

Even boredom- another reason we add noise- can be trotted out under
its old monastic name of “accidie” and teach us lots. In the desert of
boredom, one can confront the lackluster self! No wonder we don’t like it!

A new resolution: the next time I feel compelled to give advice, I hope to recall why the Oracle considered Socrates the wisest man who ever lived:

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Socrates is often accused of sophistry because of remarks like this one. My experience-entire life really, has taught me of the truth of those two-thousand-year old words.

But yet, it’s in our nature, isn’t it?

  • To learn.
  • Push ourselves.
  • The lure of knowing remains, a life-time’s work. Socrates could not stop either. Why else would he write that the “unexamined life is not worth living”?

It’s why I spend my time writing, fully aware that I can only reach the edge of truth…I wrote in a recent article these words:

BECAUSE WE LEARN- OR SHOULD- THROUGH PUBLISHING MANY ARTICLES, BOOKS ABOUT A THING THAT WE CAN GET CLOSE TO THE ESSENCE OF IT. BUT ONLY CLOSE. BECAUSE THE TRUTH OF IT REMAINS JUST OUTSIDE OUR REACH. IN THE END, WE ACCEPT OUR VIEW IS BOUNDED BY MULTIPLE FACTORS OUTSIDE OF OUR CONTROL:

  • LANGUAGE,
  • PRECONCEPTIONS,
  • THE BIAS OF SOURCES
  • ARE ONLY A FEW OF A VERY LONG LIST.
  • BUT WE GET HOOKED ON THE ATTEMPT TO ADD SOMETHING UNIQUE TO THE LIST.

Paradox, always paradox.

As always,

Thank you for reading.

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