Identities & Idolatries, Part 2: Why reconnecting with Silence is the way back
Our inability to be with silence (read: reality, uncertainty, the unknown, our lack of control, our fear and fragility) and Silence (read: the Absolute, that which is well beyond our human mental striving) is why we’re in this mess — but this also doesn’t have to be the end of the story. 04.10.23 (Part 1 is here.)
There are voices, and I’ll add my own small voice here, that are earnestly trying to say: We desperately need to re-engage with the sustained Silence of contemplative practices.
I get that on the surface this might seem crazy and totally unrelated to the problems I’ve addressed in the previous post. What does me being quiet for 20 minutes a day have to do with extremism or religious nationalism or the downfall of democracy?
I get the skepticism. But the more I witness what’s going on, the more I see this glaring lack of internal silence as the root of our struggles.
An example we saw so starkly was at the start of the pandemic: we couldn’t last three weeks in relative quiet. We could not handle it. The slowed-down pace of our own lives drove many of us — in some cases, quite literally — insane.
Even with screens and Netflix and no-contact delivery, it was still too too quiet. Not enough distraction. Not enough numbness. Not enough entertainment. Not enough external validation. Not enough spoon-fed answers to those pressing questions that will not go away and that continue to haunt us.
Our supply of familiarity and certainty suddenly got cut off. And our withdrawal was epic.
What we didn’t realize was that, all this time, we’d been mistaking noise for meaning. So when the noise was gone, our meaning collapsed. And into that void rushed rage and madness and flailing attempts to control uncontrollable things and utter despair.
That sudden emptiness also had many of us reaching for the nearest numbing agent (in other words, we needed to turn the volume up again somehow): more social media (with its algorithms intentionally designed to push us in ever more extreme and addictive directions), more alcohol and drugs (with its attendant addiction and overdose increases), more food, more…