Sounds of silence

This was one of my favorite songs when I was in high school. I still like it–still think it has a message we need to hear.

But the title has struck me in a couple of different ways the last few days (and maybe also part of the message).

I was at the doctor’s office yesterday, while my husband had a colonoscopy. While I was sitting in the waiting room for about an hour, I listened–several times–to the same messages (health-related) on the TV that was turned on. Granted, it wasn’t loud, except for the commercials…but I was sick and tired of hearing the messages after just an hour. I can’t imagine having to hear them all day. They were good messages, and I suppose they helped keep people’s minds occupied…but I had some work to do and reading I wanted to do as well–and it was hard to ignore that constant commentary going on.

So often in those situations we talk without speaking–at least anything of consequence. We hear, but we don’t listen. We make noise to drown out the sounds of silence.

Why are we so afraid of silence sometimes? Because it makes us listen to ourselves? to God? Because it makes us see our lack of connectedness?

There are other times, though, when I think it’s appropriate to fear silence–and that’s the other thing I’ve been thinking about. As I’ve watched the news reports from Japan, one comment that’s been repeated fairly often by the reporters is that in some of the places of the worst devastation, what strikes them is the silence.  No birds or other animal life…no human life….just the sounds of silence that cannot be broken because of the depths of the devastation.

And yet in some ways, the silence is being broken. Survivors are huddling together, sharing their stories, sharing what little they have, helping each other in whatever ways they can. And I think they understand what Simon and Garfunkel meant:

Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you

We can find it very easy to cocoon ourselves in times of distress–to silence the voices that would bring healing. But we are part of a worldwide community, whether we like it or not. And we have to reach out both in words and in deeds to “disturb the sound of silence” that would keep us separated from each other.