The sounds of silence are soothing

Take the iPod earbuds out, put the cell phone on silent and go into a room alone with no electrical appliances.

Hear that? Silence – something most people don’t partake of very often, and when they do, they’re eager to fill it up with noise. The old adage says, “Silence is golden,” but many do not see it that way.

Maybe it’s because in silence, people are left alone with their thoughts. These thoughts often can be troubling, reminding them of all that they still have to do or the fact that they’re not the full person they want to be.

This theory comes through in Alanis Morissette’s song “All I Really Want,” in which she poses the question, “Why are you so petrified of silence? / Here, can you handle this? / (silence) / Did you think about your bills, your ex, your deadlines or when you think you’re gonna die / Or did you long for the next distraction?”

This is quite true: Many folks – myself included – tend to long for that next distraction. Hypocritically, as I’m writing this column, I am listening to my iPod to stave off the distractions of my surroundings. When I do not have the company of other people, such as at meal times or when trying to fall asleep, I’ll put on a movie or something so I’m not left alone with my thoughts. My thoughts tend to worry me and keep me up, making me think about all the things I have to do other than sleep.

Try as I might to pray these thoughts away or think them away with other positive thoughts, it doesn’t always work. However, the steady drone of the TV (or in my case, a Golden Girls DVD playing on my computer) does. I don’t really like that I have to resort to appliances for such comfort, but I have to get to sleep somehow and the coarse sound of Bea Arthur’s voice surely beats the heck out of taking sleeping pills.

But running from silence is not always the answer. People need it to sustain themselves mentally and spiritually. If a person fills up the silence all the time and takes no time to think, he or she will just become a shell of a person with no creative ambition.

For example, I thought of the idea for this column while walking from a parking spot at my boyfriend’s apartment complex to his apartment. I was surrounded by – you guessed it – silence. Not total silence, but enough of a quiet to appreciate and be very aware of my urban surroundings.

Silences such as these are cleansing – but they cannot be experienced if one is gabbing on a cell phone all the time.

Silence is also a time when people can communicate with God or another higher power, or meditate and find inner peace.

Though that may sound too new age and quite cheesy, it’s true. If 30 Seconds To Mars is playing full blast on someone’s iPod, chances are that person isn’t concentrating on what a higher power might be trying to say. Silence affords that opportunity – a time to gather one’s thoughts, good or bad, and really listen to the quiet.

Life is not meant to be experienced on autopilot, and silence forces people off autopilot. Surely, many remember being forced to take “quiet time” when in preschool. It is a practice that should be reinstated in adulthood.

While some may think it is difficult to find, silence can be found in small ways each day. Turn off the car radio while traveling. Walk to and from classes without listening to any music or talking on a cell phone. Despite roommates, family members and technological distractions, there is always a place one can go to find that golden silence.It may take some searching, but for the sake of one’s well being, it is worth the search. I’m going to shut up now – and you should, too.

Amanda Whitsitt is a senior majoring in mass communications.