Is it just my elderly thirtysomething ears, or is popular music significantly louder than it used to be? Even coffee shop music seems able to drown out my thinking nowadays, much less the thunderous synth beats that assault me while shopping or eating. Movie soundtracks feel turned up to 100.
And it’s not just music. People seem louder than before. I tune in for a bit to a sports talk show and people are literally shouting about which quarterback is better. News is just as bad; the hosts talk as if they know you’re half asleep and must startle you back to full attention, and the guests are practically screaming even when they’re happy.
And then, of course, the world of ideas seems intolerably loud. Every single story is the worst of its kind that we’ve ever seen. Every single issue is the crucial one in the social fabric of society. Every election is the most important of our lifetime. Those who disagree are not just wrong, they are trying to tear down the true, good, and beautiful. Those who are right about the issue but wrong about the solution are trying to maintain their privileged status quo and must be plowed over.
Web design is loud too. I miss the days when a website would prioritize the ability of its users to navigate to where they want to go, instead of the power of the site to determine where the user should go. Autoplay videos, massive featured images that take up most of the screen, menus tucked away in impossibly camouflaged corners while “featured content” talks to you a like a drill sergeant—it’s just so noisy.
My phone is loud even when it’s silent. Spam texts obliterate every effort to keep them out. Ding, ding, ding…married women in my neighborhood want to “hokup” with me. Then there are the notifications. The coffee shop wants me to come in for a holiday drink. Apple wants me to share the 2 photos I took while on a business trip (presumably with my hokup partners). The 20 podcasts I listened to once while on a long road trip all have new episodes (will they scream at me?). Oh, and my screen time was up 20% last week….still waiting on that Dad of the Year nominee notification.
I find my own mind is loud nowadays too. It seems lately I think primarily in exclamatory sentences and either/or dilemmas. Reading Scripture is a fight to think about Romans instead of about whether Romans is the right thing I should be reading right now (don’t I have bigger problems than understanding the gospel?). My prayers feel colonized by anxiety that I didn’t do what that Christian living article said I should do about that issue that the other Christian living article said is a really important issue. I try to meditate on the promises of God while the wrong opinions of extremely dislikable people ring in my ears. This noise is their fault, I’m sure.
“He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters.”
A green pasture next to still waters is probably a pretty quiet place. But that’s not because nobody is there. God is there. We only arrive because He’s there first.
There’s something to be said for grass that just sits there next to water that just sits there. When David thinks of the goodness of the Lord, he thinks of stillness. Not inertia, but calm; not isolation, but restoration.
I need that. It’s getting loud out here.