O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time on and forevermore. – Psalm 131
Have you ever ridden in the quiet car of a passenger train? That’s a pretty good ride, unfettered by the paroxysm of preening and opining voices that clog air and ether from day to day. It almost has the feel of a library reading room, unless of course, you are a college freshman who confuses study hall with Love Island. It’s kind of hard to concentrate while breathing in a fusion of Axe fumes and vapors of Eilish Eu De Parfum.
While a highlight of college tours for parents is walking through the soaring, majestic library reading rooms of major universities, their minds allured by images of the Nobel scientists and Pulitzer authors who studied there; the reality is something closer to loud whispers on the set of The Dating Game. The library reading room often becomes the pre-game warmup for the pub crawl. Though they speak in hushed tones, or more accurately, loud whispers, the pheromones are howling.
The real studying and the promise of actual quiet are to be found in the remote corners of the library stacks where the individual study carrels are placed, those small cubicle desks, lit by a single gooseneck lamp and favored by graduate students hammering away at a dissertation. It may be the only place on a bustling college campus where true quiet is possible.
We tend to neglect the place and value of quiet, allowing ourselves to become so inured to the ambient drone of clamoring smartphone notifications, podcast dialogues, and bluetooth phone conversations. While something in us yearns for the quiet, we tend to avoid it out of fear of what the silence may say to us. Long ago, Pascal said, “All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit quiet in a room alone.” It is in the quiet that we can finally listen to what our lives may be saying to us, and maybe what God would have us to do. It is in the quiet that we may realize the areas in our lives that need the volume turned down. It is in the quiet that we discern the power of using fewer words. Author Toni Morrison said, “Nowadays silence is looked on as odd, and most folks have forgotten the beauty of meaning much by saying little. Now tongues work all day by themselves with no help from the mind.”
A quiet spirit in the presence of God can sound more beautiful and bring more melody into our lives than a Brahms’ lullaby.