The world is very noisy, right now. Competing voices vie for your attention, your allegiance and your vote. Cheers of celebration resound from the victorious. Deep groans of despair emerge from the defeated. Shrieks of jingoism juxtaposed with cries of betrayal can be heard on all sides. Even if you are reading this in a place other than the UK, there will be similar chants, tussles and rumblings. It’s easy to get caught in the noise – trapped by it. It can be addictive, like a drug. I know – I’ve been there.
As a society, we seem to be most attracted to those who speak loudest. Not just in politics but in life generally. Wild gesticulations excite us. Rousing speech moves us to action and to acceptance of action done in our name. I have seen it in the workplace as well as the wider world. It can be difficult for those of us who have a quieter voice to be heard.
How can the ‘quiet voice people’ have any influence in a world gone mad for noise? I don’t have all the answers but I do know they can have an impact on those around them. In meetings, I have often looked to the silent colleague at the table to speak, once those who bluster have piped down, and found they have the most useful thing to say. And I was shocked when a friend asked me to come to her husband’s funeral, a man I didn’t really know. I queried why, as she had numerous colleagues, friends and family who knew the couple well, to support her, did she want me there. She replied, ‘I need to feel your quiet presence in the room’. I was, of course, pleased to go and both humbled and in awe that she sensed and valued something that was helpful, by virtue of the absence of something else – unnecessary noise.
In an age when personality, celebrity image and clever sound bites seem to ‘get the job done’, it feels even more important to listen carefully to the ‘sound of silence’. In Buddhist practice, we nurture this daily but I am always encouraged to learn that it is not just those of us who meditate as part of our training who tap into this universal pot of gold. I am attaching a piece from Brain Pickings that illustrates this point. May we all know the joy of silence and then let silence roar!