fear the quiet


I worked at a radio station for a while right before Jenny and I were married.

We had a phrase for what happened when we weren’t paying attention ( or we ran out of song when we put “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys”* on when we needed a bathroom break).

When nothing was happening…nothing was going out on the air and everything was quiet…we called it dead air.

Dead air was a bad thing.  It was probably worse than filling up the time with bad music or even worse commentary.  It was one of the worst things that could happen at the radio station…to have even a momentary lapse in the noise was embarrassing.

Lately, I’ve stopped listening to anything while I’m delivering the mail.

I used to listen to audio books, music…the radio…maybe even some talk radio.  I would listen to anything to fill up the space…listen to anything to fill up the silence.

I think that I must have felt that for the sake of efficiency, I should be learning something every minute.  If I wasn’t learning something, I felt guilty somehow…like if I wasn’t listening to something that had a chance to educate me, that I was slumming or something.

When I was at the radio station, one of my first jobs was “riding the board” during a bunch of different radio shows.  Riding the board only meant that I sat and flipped the correct switches, turned the correct knobs, so that the talk radio would sound right over the air.

It was the glamor of show business in action.

One of the guys that I sat through every day was Rush Limbaugh.

When you have a chance to listen to him sporadically over a long period, say like twenty years or so, you realize what a load of hyped up bile it really all is.

Listening to him now, I realize that it’s the same exact show, only different players.

But the thing about it is…we sometimes treat it like news.  We act as if Glenn Beck or any of the other commentators are the only ones telling us the “truth”…because you know we wouldn’t get the “truth” from the liberal media.

I wonder how altruistic these personalities would be if they weren’t getting paid.  I don’t think that their concern for the public and their concern for the “news” runs so deep that if they weren’t making some deep jack peddling the “truth”…that they’d continue to sell it so hard.

Enough of my little rant…it’s really just, er, urinating in the breeze, anyway.

But that is why it’s such a new-found pleasure to turn off all the noise when I’m delivering the mail.

Without the noise, I do realize that to call it quiet isn’t really accurate.

I hear the wind and the rustling of the mail before I put it in the boxes.

I hear every noise my car makes before it breaks down.

I might hear a hawk.

We live our own news every day.  Our lives are the “news” that really matters….but we act like a good, responsible citizen is going to be up in everybody else’s business all the time. “Don’t you care about the world?”, some might wonder. Sure I do, I’d answer, but in the end I wonder if being able to recite what’s going on everywhere in the world isn’t just a distraction from what might not be going on in our own lives?  We fill our minds with someone else’s tragedy so that we don’t recognize our own failings.

That’s why I love the silence.

I am learning not to fear the quiet.


*  “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” is a song by a band called Traffic that’s 11 minutes and 40 seconds long.  It was the perfect song to put on if we needed to take a potty break while we were doing a show.

image from here.

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