I’m not sure if it’s my age or the result of years of meditation, minimalism, and both mental and emotional decluttering, but the older I get, the more quiet I seem to crave.
When I was younger, I thought living in the countryside – the kind of place where only three buses come and go on any given day – was torture. I wanted to be mobile, and I wanted to spend as much time as possible with my friends.
Now, having lived in the busy, buzzing hearts of cities for over a decade, I think the countryside is a blessing that should probably never be traded – especially for what, ultimately, mostly amounts to more noise.
I desire outer silence, not least because I sleep better, and I realize in a city, there’s only so much of that you’ll ever get, no matter how well-insulated your apartment. I am also learning, however, that there’s another kind of quiet, and that no amount of money will buy: inner silence.
We each contain an ocean, and in that vast body of water, there swim our memories, experiences, sensory inputs, interactions with others, knowledge, feelings, and god knows what else. We are chock full of data, albeit not all zeroes and ones, and the more that data is in motion, the more restless we feel.
I think with age, our inner ocean only gets bigger. As you keep living, more and more information floats through the sea, and the more is in there, the higher the chances that bits will collide – and cause a raging storm in the process.
What you want is for your inner ocean to be calm. A smooth surface rippling along as the sunshine falls on its expanse. Outer silence supports this kind of quiet, and not only because it gives you the space to calm the storms. It is in physical quiet that we can most comfortably face this ocean, even marvel at it without feeling threatened.
You need silence to listen for what’s going on inside, and if you don’t know what’s going on inside, you’ll never be able to have any positive effect on it. Sure, it’s an ocean, and there’s only so much you can do, but you can absolutely learn to calm yourself, to not cause more bad weather than however much nature has deemed necessary.
The more I chase external quiet, however, the more I’m also grasping yet another lesson: When the peace of daily life goes out the window, you can’t throw your inner harmony right after it. We’ll never have the perfect, forever-tranquil environment, at least most of us, most of the time. Where there’s bars and people and cars in the city, there are chainsaws, lawnmowers, and Home Depot fanatics in the countryside.
It is a hard thing to admit – that your inner life is yours to manage – and harder still to concede you’ll never be the perfect boss. But awareness brings light to everything, and so, in time and with practice, both you and I shall preside over the kind of quiet money can’t buy.