In a time of tremendous noise from social media, 24/7 news, advertisements, and the constant temptation to escape every spare, dull moment with a hit of technology, we are called to unplug. We cannot escape the pollution around us, but we must make space for quiet, for without quiet there is no other way to hear the still, quiet voice of God. If you doubt for a moment whether you are affected by noise, take an honest look at the division in our country and pay attention to the feelings of anger and self-righteousness you experience in your personal bubble. The common thread here, if there is one, is that we ALL are experiencing the same concurrent feelings of being misunderstood and judging others. We are talking without listening. We are shoring up our own (mis)perceptions with evidence from those who think just like we think.

An unchecked barrage of noise only makes the situation worse. We get carried away in emotion and the noise level increases. There are no level heads to steer the course. As my husband is fond of advising before helping in an emergency, “First, take your own pulse.”

This poem, by Max Ehrmann, is a good place to start.

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

 

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