So much noise… and busy-ness. These are the hallmarks of life in the inner city, and for much of suburbia. The sounds are so numerous and invasive that we have tuned out from most of them, having at some stage and place in our brain set a marker not to notice them, unless they move outside of certain parameters. I clearly remember our first night in West Melbourne, listening to the sounds of the tram wheels grinding their way around the corner into Errol Street, the cars humming and whining their way on King Street, and – most notoriously – the air brakes of the B-double at 4 am, bringing both Ev and I bolt upright from the bed. Now we sleep through them, stirred only by the extraordinary and unusual. Mind you, I am not sure that we sleep all that deeply – just that we do not let the depth of sleep be interrupted by the sounds outside.
What do we lose by this immersion in sound? Does the unfamiliar silence hold any messages for us? Are we deprived by the constant stimulus in our ears? On those occasions when I leave the city for more rural surroundings, I discover that there is a hum of nature – a thin silence which echoes messages of a different frequency, sounds – yet silent; stillness – which conveys a rich vibrancy. I am in touch with life at a different level, suddenly deeply aware of the movements of my own body – the beating of my heart, the rise and fall of my chest; and at the same time conscious of life in the rustle of a leaf and the stirrings of wind through the trees.
My city mind has learned to block any response to a certain level of noise – it has to be aware of a difference in frequency or volume, or bear an unfamiliar tone which piques curiosity. I subconsciously define “interest” as related to that with which I am unfamiliar. The accustomed lacks notoriety. The unfamiliar is the place of fresh encounter.
And I subconsciously take this same attitude to my own journey of faith – deeming that which is ‘out of the ordinary’ as the only place worthy of closer examination. The hunger for “the new” permeates our culture, and invades my spirituality: it has to be extraordinary or unusual to be worthy of God. Such an attitude robs me of the wonder of God’s presence in the ordinary – which is the bulk of life’s experience.
Jesus depicted God’s kingdom at work in the ordinary-ness of life: a widow losing a coin, a sower in the field, a small tree… God was to be found in the very things I have conditioned my mind to ignore.
And I sometimes wonder at the poverty of my own journey of faith…
December 5, 2004