White Noise

Last week I was looking at the most popular apps in the iTunes app store and I couldn’t believe my eyes…a random noise-making app was #1. Pushed as a “health” app, it essentially plays white noise to help people relax or sleep. Supported by a bunch of newspapers as innovative for sleep and relaxation the app says, “Sleep Great with White Noise.”

It is incredible to me how trained the human brain is for noise in our culture.

When Rose was gone for 10 days in Honduras, the hardest part was how quiet it was in the house. It seems that for me and for many of us silence is a bad thing. It is a situation we do our best to avoid.

I wonder why this is. I’m certainly no expert, but I’d say that silence forces us to listen.

Silence forces us to listen to our thoughts, to the emptiness, and most of all, to God.

Between traffic, tv, radio, and social media, there is no way to function well in society without an ability to manage noise. Whether it be audible noise or just life busyness, we are much better about dealing with volume than enjoying silence.

No doubt God often speaks to us through the shouts of difficult life circumstances and through the beauty of worshiping in community, but we rarely allow him to speak to us in the quiet moments. Not because we don’t want to hear from him, but because the quietness makes us feel vulnerable, even naked.

Instead of filling the silence with white noise to clothe our minds, let’s embrace the quiet because God will use it to lead us towards Himself.

  • http://j.hn/ John Dyer

    Pascal said something along these lines in #139 of Pensees (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/pascal/pensees.txt),

    “When I have occasionally set myself to consider the different distractions of men … I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber… the natural poverty of our feeble and mortal condition [is] so miserable that nothing can comfort us when we think of it closely.”

    • http://www.manofdepravity.com Tyler

      Great quote John.

  • http://melindalgroth.blogspot.com/ Melinda

    I feel like an odd one to write a response, since I am unable to hear much of anything, but here it goes. The idea behind white noise is not to bring sound to silence. It is used to blur/blend/muffle sounds that people have no control over and find distracting from working or sleeping. From what you described, you had silence available to you. Many people don’t. Whether it is the sound of passing trains, constant traffic, conversations in a hallway, partying neighbors, construction work, etc., the use of white noise makes the spikes of such noise less jarring and distracting. I believe that its description a health app has merit. Unwanted distraction brings stress. Stress build-up is not healthful. Chronic insomnia is also unhealthful. An app like this is a tool, not unlike sleep or sedation medication, but without the lingering after-effects.

    • http://www.manofdepravity.com Tyler

      All good points Melinda, I don’t disagree with you. I mostly think many people who will use this app just can’t handle silence, but I could be wrong. I get why, like I said in the post, but we don’t think about the benefits of silence. We would rather look at it with negativity most often.

  • http://www.journeyofworship.com Chris Gambill

    Tyler,
    As I was reading this, I immediately thought of two things. One was Elijah, and how it wasn’t in the noise, but in the quiet that God met him at a time of vulnerability and discouragement. The other was the people in the congregations I’ve lead in worship who struggle when there are times of reflection and quiet. I agree with you that our society has resulted in people being conditioned to be afraid of and wary of silence.

    I love silence. Some of my favorite times are driving in the car without music with just my thoughts and the ability to hear God. Oh yeah, I do have the app in question, but as Melinda suggested, I’ve only used it to cover noise that I can’t control. Not to fill silence because I don’t like it.