Why has the world become so noisy with a corresponding decline in tolerance and mutual understanding?
Daouda Traoré: “Sans Bruit’’ Kuenyehia Trust for Contemporary African Art, https://www.kuenyehiaprize.org
What’s it gonna take to slow us down
To let the silence spin us around
What’s it gonna take to drop this town
We’ve been spinning at the speed of sound
Stepping out of those convenience stores
What could we want, but more, more more
If we’re adding to the noise
Turn off this song
If were adding to the noise
Turn off this stereo, radio, video….
Switchfoot, Adding to the Noise, 2003
In his much-acclaimed book, Factfulness, Hans Rosling tells the story of an explorer who hired some African locals to travel with him to explore the southern part of the continent. They made some really good progress over the first two weeks or so, but sometime during the journey, the explorer woke up in the morning, got dressed, and went out, ready to continue the trip and found the locals sitting round doing nothing.
Baffled, and slightly angry, he demanded to know why.
The local expedition leader explained they had to wait because their bodies had been travelling so fast that their souls had been left behind and needed time to catch up.
I smiled when I read that, not realising the hidden truth in that statement.
The world we live in has become so noisy – so much so that we can hardly think for ourselves anymore.
We have a new currency – and it’s not measured in pounds or dollars – but in attention (brings a new meaning to the term ‘pay attention’) 😂
There is a frantic war for our attention because our attention is money.
Paul Angone, in his new book, Listen to Your Day, has coined the term ‘the infinite scroll’ – the fact that most social media platforms are built so your mind can’t catch up with your scroll – so you don’t pay attention to what you’re watching or the time you’re spending – creating what he calls ‘behavioural cocaine’.
I have certainly fallen victim to this trap. I deceive myself into thinking that because I’m on LinkedIn, not TikTok or Facebook more of the time, ‘’ I’m somehow superior ‘’ because I was “learning about business and lifestyle’ not just mindlessly watching videos of influencers driving their cars or inviting us into their homes – but the effects were the same – not spending enough quality time with my family, getting distracted so I couldn’t notice the beauty of a sunset, or find my mind wandering when talking to staff.
To compound the problem is the famous ‘algorithm’ – the fact that the platform sees what you’re watching and feeds you more of that information, which means we become so entrenched in our views – and the noise gets louder and louder and we can’t hear the other side anymore.
We say we live in a tolerant society, but really views have hardened on both sides – vaxxers and anti-vaxxers, Republican and Democrat, Labour, and Conservative, Left and Right, immigrants and locals, Muslims, and Christians.
The world has become noisy. Too noisy. The clamour for our attention is getting louder and louder by the day.
Many years ago, I decided to sit in silence, meditation, prayer, and solitude every day from 5am to 7am, but some days when I’m not paying attention, I hear a ping from my phone or watch, and by the time I realise, I’ve gone down this rabbit hole of social media, and lost almost an hour to the ‘infinite scroll’
That time is costly, because that time is when virtually all the material for my newsletters, poetry and books are birthed.
It’s also when I’ve been able to think around problems, pray jot down notes, journal, find peace within. It’s the time I plan for my day, remember people in pain and distress, and reset my priorities.
But all that time gets wasted just from a ping from my device.
I am convinced that in the times of silence, of solitude, of boredom, of nothingness, those times are when we discover our true, creative, and authentic selves.
We need to wrestle back control of our lives by simply paying attention to our choices.
So, this week, how can we devise times to create solitude and silence so our souls can catch up with our bodies?