Yesterday, July 18, was “World
Listening Day,” and it might be a commentary on my own failure to listen well
that I didn’t hear about it until the day had passed.  The World Listening Project sponsors World
Listening Day as a part of its mission to encourage people to pay attention to
the “soundscapes” of their natural and cultural environments and to reduce
notice pollution.  I am learning that paying
attention to “acoustic ecology” is one part of caring for creation and for one
“World Listening Day” also
reminds me how little time and space we have for silence, which is the
precondition, I think, for meaningful listening—whether to creation or the
Creator, whether to our neighbors or our own hearts.  Many of us have, whether we
know it or not, Silence Deficit Disorder. 
Our world is noisy and so are our inner lives. 
Keizer,in his book The Unwanted Sound of
Everything We Want: A Book About Noise
, imagines
a contest to determine the invention or the inventor who deserves
first prize—say, a golden loudspeaker—for filling the world with the most
commotion. The claims of the principal contenders occur within a few years of
one another: The Wright Brothers made their historic flight at Kitty Hawk in
1903; Henry Ford introduced his automotive assembly line in 1908.  Transportation noises, from highway traffic
and from aircraft, accounts for the largest percentage of environmental noise
complaints today.  Among neighborhood
noise complaints, loud music is perhaps the most common, so Marconi’s radio
(1893) and Edison’s phonograph (1877) ought to be in the running, too.  Add to these a whole catalogue of industrial
machines, from rock crushers to hydraulic drills, though none are as widespread
as cars and planes. 
Ironically, the winner may be standing mutely in the wings.  Though it makes only the faintest sound, the
incandescent light bulb, patented by Thomas Edison in 1879, may have done more
than any other invention to make the world a noisier place. . . . (pp. 117-118)
With light
flooding the night, work did not have to stop with the setting of the sun, and
it became possible for commerce and entertainment on a broad scale to happen at
any time—eventually all the time, 24/7/365. 
The noise which once fell to relative silence at night now revs, hums,
drones, and even rages all the time.
Adding to
the noise is a traffic jam of words: bumper to bumper syllables, detours made
necessary by miscommunication, collisions caused by conflict, and road rage
incited by cutting each other off, not making room to listen, and refusing to
yield in order to make progress.  The
words just keep coming at us, crowding in on us, and pushing us. 
Words swirl
around us constantly: round the clock television news and talk radio, stacks of
newspapers and magazines, countless web sites and blogs, and endless email,
texts and tweets.
The noise
is all around us, and it’s inside us, too. 
Anne Lamott said that when she was a little girl she was attacked by
“drive by shoutings,” primarily aimed at her by people who made fun of her for
her appearance. She says she’s still haunted by those voices; they’ve moved
inside her mind and heart.  They continue
to shout at her, especially in the middle of the night. 
Maybe you
know what she means: you sometime hear dark voices in your heart and spirit,
too: cries of fear and anxiety, 
accusations of inadequacy, indictments of shame, verdicts of guilt, the
pounding drum of obsession, and the snarling insistence of addiction. 
With all the external commotion
and internal confusion, we need silence. 
Our “Silence Deficit” disorders our lives far more than we realize.  It interferes with our hearing the quiet
voice of God who sounds hope, sings joy, and whispers love to us.  They keep us from hearing, really hearing,
the words of God which sustain and strengthen us: “I delight in you. I forgive
you.  I will never leave you or forsake
Paul said in his Letter to the
: “Faith comes from what is
heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” There’s a close
relationship between what we hear and what we trust.  Listening and experience are intertwined.  It isn’t anatomically correct, but it is
spiritually true: our ears and our hearts are connected to each other.   
Eckhart once said: “You must depart from all crowds and go back to the starting
point, the core out of which you came.” Eckhart knew that there was silence
before God spoke the original words of creation, and that, ever since, silence
is the precondition for any genuine hearing that will result in vitality, creativity,
and newness.