The cars constantly rush beneath my second story apartment window down Los Robles Avenue, one of the busier Pasadena streets, and over the 210 freeway a hundred yards north of my building. The freeway flows with a never ending stream of vehicles heading towards either ocean, though likely settling somewhere on land before they reach the shores. The sound of cars is a wind that never ceases, a brook ever bubbling, a tide always in the ebb and flow. My thoughts are picked up by the rush and transported to all the distant possible places the rivers might be running.
I miss the sound when I leave. I lay in my bed at night in Valley View, TX (pop. 714), and struggle to drift off to sleep without the sound of the concrete causeway to carry me. Paris was no different. The pedestrian city of lights was silent at night, its few cars safely stowed in garages and angled side street parking spaces. I missed the murmur of the motorways there too.
It is strange how used we get to certain sounds, how comforting they become. “Noise pollution,” they call it derisively. “Jet engines and whirling helicopter blades destroy the serenity of our natural environment. No fence, no regulation, no conscientious community action can keep the cacophony out!” the protectors of our national parks proclaim. I love nature – the creak of crickets, the crack of gravity conscious tree branches, the high cry of hawks in hunt. Nature is hardly silent, and given ears to hear, the forests and deserts are sequestered symphonies of government maintained music. The revving of RVs and roars of Fords is just the evidence of other life-forms entering the legislated wild. There is always sound. We ought not kid ourselves otherwise.
Silence has its place, but that place is between people, in the shared silence of love present yet absent of pretense. Solitary silence is a myth, it is a false nostalgia like so many photographs distressed and faded by computer programs instead of time. To be alone and quiet is to be open, finally, to the sound of the world surrounding and the sound of one’s own thoughts most often held at bay by 24-hour news cycles, digital music devices, and cell phones that growl even when set on “silent.” To make oneself silent is to make oneself available to the voices too frequently ignored. Silence should be partaken like a kneeling at the alter and an opening of the mouth to accept the wafer from a priest. Silence should be sipped from the common cup and passed along to the penitent person also at the table of God’s mercy.
Then we must go, for the curtain has been torn, and God has escaped into the greater world. We are not meant to remain in the silence, gorging ourselves on the sacrifice of Christ. We are sent into the world to listen to the cries of the heartbroken, to take up the protests of the dispossessed as our own, to contribute our tears to the waters filling the gutters along the streets ever flowing with desperate life.
Hear the noise of the world. Hear it as the circadian sound of new life being birthed, the thump thump thump thump thump of a new heartbeat begging to bring new blood into contact with the breathed air of new creation. This world is a womb, and we are the firstly re-born, taste-testers of an existence soon to be bestowed upon all.
Share the silence. Share the sound. Share the suspense of the story unfolding, of creation being restored.