Too busy for silence?

Too busy for silence?

We live in such a busy world, and it seems there is no sign of it slowing down. Quite the opposite, it seems that life continues to get more and more hectic. As inhabitants of the world and citizens of communities, we involve ourselves in many levels of functioning, often at a frenetic pace. At one level, it is quite remarkable that we can achieve so much; at another level, surely we have to ask: what is the cost?

Advances in technology over the years have been truly amazing and have added many new dimensions to our lives, mostly in the interests of saving time and providing new opportunities. The ultimate of these advances for our everyday lives would have to be the computer and its phonecounterpart mobile devices. This technology has gone from word processing and calculating machines of years ago to multi and complex functioning devices that we have today, which have extensive and far-reaching capabilities. Laptops, ipads, tablets, and smart phones can be used to read, write, listen, talk, research, draw, photograph, calculate, communicate and a whole lot more. They are immensely useful to us and we may wonder how we ever lived without them. Yes, computers have opened up so many doors and have greatly changed the way in which we live. It seems that everyone now has their constant companion smart phone that keeps them well connected everywhere they go.

Whilst computers have helped our lives in so many ways, there is a significant down side that I think is far more disturbing than we care to acknowledge (after all, how would we ever do without them?)

I’m sure everyone has experienced dinner or coffee engagements that include mobile companions coming to the table as well as the people themselves, and even though I have banned screens at our family dinner table, it doesn’t stop them making an appearance!

There is rarely a social occasion where individuals focus their entire attention on the person or people who are present. It is far more typical now for people to check or write messages and take phone calls in the company of others. It would appear then, that the company with whom they are spending time is less important than the agenda or the person on the other end of the phone. It is often the case that the attention is directed to someone completely unknown who has just popped up on a social media channel.


This modus operandi is quite well accepted in social contexts of today, and we are grateful for having such immediate contact with the rest of the world. But how does this manner impact on our relationships and the value that we place on the person with whom we spend time, and the way in which we value our loved ones and others?

Whilst this is a very pertinent question to ask, intrusion into personal relationships is not the most concerning aspect of our absolute reliance on computer devices.

The greatest casualty of our current lifestyle I believe, is the squeezing out and eradication of personal time and solitude. When we fill our lives with constant activity, our real selves are unknown to us and we can feel lost in the absence of noise. With constant activity in our lives, we fail to hear our inner wisdom which can only be noticed in silence.

A focus on activity leaves us wanting or needing to engage more frequently, as it becomes an addictive or self-fulfilling state. With this type of lifestyle, stress is more common, as we strive to keep up participating and responding to all of the various aspects and agendas in our lives. We are all the time looking to fill the space with more chatter and noise or messages on the phone, because we are not so comfortable without it.

Our emphasis on activity leaves us with little time of silent space in our lives. We become less accustomed to silence, leaving out this vital counterpart to our activity. More and more, we squeeze out of our lives time of quiet, solitude and deep reflection that is the balance for activity.

John O’Donohue suggests in his book of Celtic wisdom, Aman Cara, that “one of the reasons so many people are suffering from stress is not that they are doing stressful things but that they allow so little time for silence.”

It is when the opposites in our lives come together, that we become grounded and balanced, just as the night and day or the yin and yang. Despite being opposites, they are complementary; bothyinyang1 being essential for the flow of life, of chi. One without the other diminishes life’s balance and harmony.

In the same way, action and silence are necessary opposites. When we squeeze silence and solitude out of our lives, we are less centred, less balanced. Action without silence is frantic, and silence without action is numb.

Both action and silence together are necessary opposites for our wisdom to accompany our actions, and for us to feel at home with our soul friend, our Anam Cara.

— I’d be happy to know how you manage to find the silence in your lives.—

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