A Quiet Life

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands… 1 Thessalonians 4:11

A former prison inmate once told me that the worst part of prison, for him, was the inability to control his environment; he lived in continuous clamor and light.

Mother Teresa reportedly said, “God is the Friend of silence . . . He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grow in silence. See the stars, the moon and sun move in silence.”

Part of the majesty of God is revealed in how His great works take place in hushed tranquility. He moves large balls of enormous weight through the universe or drops tons of snow on the earth, all in muted splendor. Prairie sod, crops, and forests grow, and eagles soar and great rivers flow . . . without a sound.

Maybe prisons are prophetic; today we all seem to live in harsh lighting and jarring noise that is pervasive and perpetual.

How did we get here? Like any prisoner, we embraced a “promising” idea or temptation. Then, as we slipped deeper into the relationship, the object of our affection suddenly slammed its steel jaws around us.

We wanted wealth and we wanted security, fame and privacy, intimacy and anonymity, leadership and selfishness. Together. We wanted to sow and not reap. And various tools — technology, politics, media, and religion — promised that we could have things that had always been mutually exclusive. They said we could suspend the Golden Rule; we could do unto others what we would never want for ourselves.

For example, Facebook (not the only, and perhaps not the worst, offender) flirted with us, using the idea that we could find meaningful (even intimate) and no-risk connection with other humans. It would build a safe road through our raging insecurities and the badlands of relationships. We could really express and market ourselves, preach and proselytize, and possibly recover our youth. Hands went up, “Yes, I’ll buy that.”


We did not get the safety and recovered youth, but we did get streaming noise, drama, the invasion of our privacy, and (some say) new addictions. A government agent told a recent law enforcement academy, “I’m telling everyone I know to get off Facebook. NOW.” Why? Sophisticated software has given criminals the same tools used by law enforcement. They find vulnerabilities and move into them.

A recent article about the capacity of “smart” TVs to spy on their owners warned that we “might be careful about what they say or do in the device’s presence.” Why would anyone tolerate (much less, buy) a box that violates your privacy and then sells what it learned about you to others so they can transgress you further?

I like and use high-tech tools; I don’t have seizures about technology. But the gadget is not the problem; humans are. And I’m not convulsed about that. I’m just trying to build a buffer between me and those who use the Internet, GPS systems, cell phones, phishing, computer malware and spyware, photo sharing, and other tools to take stuff from me.

Bottom line: Our trust has been violated. After all, we paid for those things; they weren’t a gift and we didn’t negotiate a better price. They slapped a price on the screen and we said, “Sold!”

Clearly, a promise has become a prison.

A couple thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul told Thessalonian Christians (and us) to “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, mind your own business, and work with your hands.”

Joanne and I live in a peaceful habitation. But, in 2013, we’re going to step further into the quiet (which means further away from sources of noise, anxiety, and restlessness). We don’t know the details, but if you look around familiar places and realize you can’t find us, just remember that we still want to meet with our friends whenever possible.

But instead of virtual meeting places, let’s sit on the porch, in a bar or on bales of hay.

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How Music Changes our Brain

I’ve been in a very intense travel/work schedule, so have not posted here in a while. But I think I’m back now.

Just read an absolutely fascinating piece in Salon: “How Music Changes our Brain.”  Sample quotes:

“…noise is the second greatest pollutant in the world today. Environmental noise affects cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment in kids, sleep disturbance, tinnitus, not to mention just plain annoyance. If it’s too loud, whether it’s classical music, rock, whatever, it’s not good for us. And the numbers are just beyond me. The study said noise cost up 45,000 DALY [disability-adjusted-life years, meaning 45,000 years of “healthy” life worldwide are taken away by noise] per year.

“I just returned from a week in New York City, and I have a little decibel app on my iPhone. On the subways it registered way over 100 decibels. When I was outside, I found myself covering my ears and needing to use my noise reduction headphones.

“…a background rhythm will help and assist somebody with dyslexia or autism to speak and read in rhythm. Exposure to different kinds of patterns — high range, mid-range, low range, slow tempo, medium, high tempo — can help bring order to their thinking. In a 2001 study, one researcher found that brain activity changes when there is soothing music, and there is biological evidence that we can actually remove a great deal of the tension in frustrated children by exposing them to more soothing sounds.

“Our hearing decreases radically after the age of 60, and often by the time we are in our 80s we don’t hear high frequencies and some sounds become more annoying and more confusing. Under different kinds of medication, tinnitus becomes more frequent. It’s a symptom, not a disease. By learning to tap a rhythm as one speaks with an elder, to use a drum, a simple hand drum, the size of a tambourine, to be able to translate and transfer the organization of speech and thought becomes much more effective. There’s a company called Oval Window that produces floors that vibrate, so elders they can literally hear better through the vibrations.

“Silence is part of the brain’s pattern. It helps it reintegrate, like sleep, but we can’t shut our ears like we shut our eyes…I love exploring iTunes, but you only get 20 seconds of something to see if you like it. It’s like an all-you-can-eat food bar, but you need to understand the nutrition of it. If you’re changing music every 30 seconds, then be sure to have 2 minutes of real silence in there. It goes back to chew your food so to speak before you swallow it.”

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