One of the greatest areas of breakdowns in our society, individually and collectively, is our communication process. We honestly do not understand the basic communication procedure. … We have a way of communicating that does not communicate. We talk but we do not say what we mean. … It is true, we talk a lot and say nothing. Gregge Tiffen (Deeds Are Fruit, Words Are Leaves – October, 2008)
An unintended experiment this week has me reflecting on all the noise in our world, especially the empty words we all hear and that, sadly, most of us speak from time to time just to fill space.
Nowhere is this more evident to me than in television. Even though I mute most commercials, I find myself mindlessly watching pundits blather endlessly often making no sense. Sportscasters do the same, mixing statics, history and their biases into nonsensical run-on sentences. Noise, peace disrupting noise, (and a reason I watch so little TV).
But this week finds my beloved Houston Astros in the World Series. At the same time, I have guests here at the Dragonfly House (lovely, interesting poets from Wisconsin) who don’t share my passion for the team I once followed closely. How could I fulfill my desire to watch the games and honor that my guests were here in part for the quiet beauty of the southern Rockies? The obvious solution: watch without sound AND keep my cheering (and jeering) to myself.
In doing so, I discovered a most enjoyable experience (well, except for not cheering wildly when the ‘stros scored and won game 2). Turning off the sound required that I watch the screen to see what was happening. And, as the game unfolded that framed how I felt and how my body responded. I discovered a much lower, calmer level of intensity. Without the babble of the commentators to incite my nervous system, I could simply watch the game and observe my reactions to what I was seeing.
Late in the game messaging on Facebook with a Houston friend who was watching there, didn’t ramp up my adrenaline flow, even as Houston took then lost the lead and finally won the game. With this lower level of intensity, I found that I could truly enjoy watching these men perform their craft. I also happily discovered that it was relatively easy to get to sleep when the game was finally over.
My unintended experiment opened my eyes to the high cost of over-reliance on sound and demonstrated for me in a new way just how distracting the noise of the world can be. It reminded me that some things are best enjoyed with a single sensory focus. In not allowing myself to be over-stimulated, the peace and satisfaction of the quiet hike in the mountains stayed intact as the highlight of my day.
In these days when we seem to be swimming in a sea of intense events, the experiment also offered a reminder to be self-observant and to choose carefully the quantity, quality, and sources of input and types of stimlus we allow in. And, for all of that, I am most grateful.