I find myself sitting in my office on a late Friday afternoon. Everyone is gone. On another weekday, there might be a straggling student or faculty member, but on a Friday, everyone takes off quickly. I realize how rare these truly quiet moments are and not just external quiet moments, but internal ones. There’s a constant stream, sometimes, in my head, of to-do lists and random thoughts, like a social media feed. I like these quiet moments, but I’m unpracticed in how to use them.
You might blame technology, from tv to the Internet, but I don’t think quiet moments were that frequent before the dawn of social media. Aloneness is not something most people seek. There is noise where there are people, whether they are present or accessed via a screen. And that noise is comforting to most of us. It says, “I’m connected to something. I mean something to someone.”
I often joke about my Protestant work ethic, and I think that intrudes even on my moments of silence. If things are quiet, then shouldn’t I be getting some work done? I can’t just sit here and stare, can I? I’m not a meditator. It seems like too much to plan quiet moments. And the way my life works, something inevitably interrupts whatever I have planned.
I was thinking about quiet just now because it is quiet, but also because I was reading some old poems and they felt quiet. I remembered reading and writing poetry and it felt still to do so. It was a way of organizing my thoughts, quietly, into lines and stanzas. I don’t read poetry much anymore and haven’t written poetry in years. And maybe it’s not just poetry, but any reading or writing, thoughtful reading and writing, that creates a kind of quiet that allows thoughts to go where they need to go, or to be calmly put down onto paper or onto the screen.
At any rate, I’ve actually been thinking about creating some new habits, and seeking quiet just might have to be one of them.