For years I craved city, concrete & noise. I craved music in nightclubs – the pounding bass, and I cranked up speakers while cleaning my house – the Ramones, James Brown, the Rolling Stones.
I screamed with Etta James in the shower singing “I heard church bells ringing, I heard a choir singing.”
I travelled and argued with friends on the tube in England, only to find the British staring at us like the loud, raucous, Americans we were. I yelled to my best friend in the tube – Donâ€™t marry him, heâ€™s going to ruin you.
She married him and he did ruin her. She went into a witness protection program after living inside the noise for years and years.
I danced so hard in night clubs in Philadelphia and New York and Florence and Rome that my heavy silver five pound earrings tore my pierced earlobes. I was living in the bass and the beat of youth. Inside the city of sound.
So. much. noise.
There is a city that lives inside all of us. Her screeching trains, her pot holes, the all night honking and the trash trucks and sirens, the breaking of fences and rules and now, the breaking of a country. City sounds and screams and protests fill our whole being, informing who we were and who we are becoming.
When I became sick, all the noise of the world and the city that lived inside me became unbearable. All I wanted was the cave of silence, the dark womb of the beginning when my lungs were smaller than pennies.
I became a refugee from sound, moving toward silence to heal my body and spirit. I even craved silence in art, paintings that quieted my mind.
I took on a silent, reverent, lover.
Silence was an invitation to awe, like sitting on the rim of the grand canyon.
I became in awe of life through silence, an awe I could always find at sunrise, or 2 a.m. when the hunting dogs were asleep and the ocean wasn’t pushing against the rocks, looking up into the extraordinary, glittering expanse of the Milky Way.
I stripped my home of televisions and stereos in search of even more silence, avoiding parties.
Years passed and 2020 happened, and then 2021, with all the noise and drama and screaming and the President of the United Stated taunting and texting – and that’s when I had to work on my relationship with silence.
And I’m telling you this because the next eighteen days are going to be hard. And while I respect and honor and believe we need our voices to rise and transform the world, I want to remind everyone how important it is to embrace the silence in between.
Even a warrior knows when to rest.
We can’t hear the wisdom unless we embrace silence, our ear cannot possibly be pressed to the earth or our ancestors or even our own intuition, without quieting the city inside us.
Silence is part of every religion, every sacred tradition, all personal growth and transformation. In the Quaker tradition silence brings members together – it has a mysterious, bonding effect.
The deepest, most personal truths come from silence.
Real silence is a wordlessness, an awe filled existence where we are freed from criticism and delusion and judgement.
And if we can stay with it long enough, the truth often comes galloping across a field, but we would never hear its air-like hooves, the message in the breeze if we didn’t first embrace the shhhhhhhh.
What I know for sure is that the chaos of the inner city of self is fed by the news and social media; it’s like being strapped to a chair and forced to watch Fight Club over and over.
Hatred is on repeat, if you let it be.
Love is on repeat too, if you let it be.
Your voice is needed now more than ever. But you won’t find it in the city of the noise. You find your voice when you press your ear to the divine.
Poet John Donahue has said Resilience is one of the major thresholds in the world, it is a great friend of the soul.
If you embrace the silence long enough, I’m certain you might hear a leaf unfurling, the hum of the universe, the rivers of your own blood-wisdom, coursing through your veins, letting you know how you can best serve the world.