The Power of Silence in a Deafening World

It was a welcome respite to be honest. Waking up and seeing headlines about the wrong film being read out at the Oscars was a lot more pleasant than most news stories of late. While I’m sure it was painfully embarrassing for everyone involved, no one will suffer any lasting damage as a result. There will be no ongoing disagreements or recriminations, no campaigns or petitions. It was a simple mistake, dealt with very graciously.

I’m happy that there isn’t another controversial thing to worry about to be honest. I’m a little exhausted of being worried. A little tired of checking the news with an almost feverish regularity. I’m done with bracing myself for the next disaster or diplomatic incident. I know that I am responsible for the amount of time that I spend reading the news, going from site to site, checking and re-checking to see what’s going on. I also think that I do have a responsibility to be well-informed. Much of the information out there is good, helping us to understand something in more depth and from different perspectives. But it can all get too much. It is too much. The noise is deafening.

In our age of smartphones, news is everywhere. It is shared, tweeted, re-tweeted. We get alerts on our phones about ‘breaking news’ stories. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is very sick of that BBC ‘news beep’ alert. It is increasingly hard to cut ourselves off and find some peace and quiet.

Now, I don’t think we should sever all links with the world around us. We should read the news, stay in the loop. But I feel that, at the moment, my eyes are glued to the screen, unable to look away for even a second. I can’t focus on a movie if my phone is nearby. I spend far too long in the morning, in the evening, during work even, checking what is going on in the world. It’s like the background noise of my life has become the successive crises of our modern world. It all makes it a bit overwhelming really, plus making the news seem worse than it actually is.

I need a little more silence in my life. Not ‘putting my head under a pillow’ silence, but the peace and the space that is so easily squeezed out. Time with people, not talking politics; cooking, eating and drinking; reading; watching; sleeping.

To go back to the Oscars, I felt that the (eventual) winner of Best Picture was a great example of the power of silence. I would highly recommend you see ‘Moonlight’ if you can. So much of the emotion in the film is conveyed through looks, actions, and space. The main character, Chiron, as a result of a hard and lonely childhood, is almost monotone in his responses in many scenes. More is conveyed through his face and eyes. The film itself also communicates so much without words. The wind from the sea, the approaching sound of a car, the sound of a slamming door, are all more powerful than the dialogue. When words are used, they are well chosen and powerful, both to hurt and to heal. The reconciliation between Chiron and his mother is powerful in the ways both words and silence are used to convey the love, regret and anger between these two characters. The film’s careful use of words and silence make it an all the more powerful viewing experience and, in my opinion, a worthy winner.

Moonlight, in its sparse beauty, was such a marked contrast to the dense diet of information I normally consume that it stopped me in my tracks. It made me think about the power of the words I use, and that I read, and how words can tumble from my mouth without really meaning anything. I made me remember the power of silence. Space in which to think, in which to rest, in which to pray.

I’m going to try to make more space, more silence, in my life. I’m going to try and choose my words more carefully. I’m going on a news diet. I’m going to put my phone on the other side of the room. I hope I’ll be able to hear people and hear God better as a result.