Why is Quiet so Loud?

Basically every single night of Little Man’s life, he has fallen asleep in the company of his parents. The voyage to dreamland is not a solo one for him. We went from co-sleeping to rocking him to sleep and, now, every single night for as long as he was too big for the rocking chair, we sit in his room, playing soft piano music until the boy is KOd.

Sometimes it is so annoying and I’m done with enabling this arrangement but mostly–it’s the best. It’s peaceful and bonding and meditative and there is something quite awe-inspiring about being there each night for the graceful drift another human makes from the conscious to the unconscious state. I notice it’s also a time when Baby Girl is engrossed in narrative play with her dolls, setting up micro-living rooms where they discuss the latest in American Girl Doll fashion, I assume. This time of quiet, it does something for our son to have one of us there and it does something for our daughter to have us both undisposed . I realize now as I am typing this: it does something for us as parents, too.

Which is to say that I am pretending to discover land that is already well-inhabited territory. I’ve stumbled upon a thing that is, for all intents and purposes, an element in the periodic table of life that everyone knows about already, that everyone has memorized and understands its usage. So why is the messaging around Quiet so loud?

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The magazines tell us how to structure our Me Time, as if it were a bureau dresser from IKEA. Spas tantalize with promises of peace for the price of an hour-long massage. Quiet has been commodified, luxurified. But oxygen is not a luxury, nor are clothes a fringe benefit. Quiet time should not be something that is reserved as in four-star dining. Quiet is a need, a necessary ingredient in wholeness. It is not simply the absence of noise but the intentionality around whatever creates a haven for reflection. So, again, why is the messaging around quiet so loud?

[Portrait of June Christy and Bob Cooper, 1947 or 1948] (LOC)

Because we have allowed it to be so. We pretend to steal away private moments to pray, to meditate, to breathe, all the while worried that there might be a gaping hole in the universe we will have to replenish with our busy-ness and idle small talk.

I am here to say that Quietude does not affect our carbon footprint, my friends. The messaging will tell us that to seek a quiet life is a radical act of surrender and even selfishness. But it is one of the very things that we need more of, that we need to drink in and breathe out and become better and braver because we have been quiet.

What if the work to stay relevant was less prized than the work we must do to preserve ourselves in irrelevance? What if Donald Trump relaxed his face for a few minutes, what if Marissa  Mayer took a radically longer maternity leave? What if umpires and baseball managers, instead of squaring off on the mound in disagreement, took a full minute of silence before they tried to settle a dispute about a fly ball? What if we changed the expression “For crying out loud” to “For crying in my corner!” What if quiet were less of a library standard and more the atmosphere of our world?

Hartshorn's Baby Primer

One of the coolest things I heard a business woman say in the last year was “Sleep is an act of worship.” Ruth Simons, an entrepreneur and mother of six boys said that, as an exhortation about leaning in too much to the din of social media and online hyperactivity. Sleep, and in effect, quiet, are extraordinarily ordinary acts that glorify the Heavens for their providence — in spite of all that we fancy ourselves able to do here as mere mortals. I can tell you that I could use a few more nights of working the evening shift with my little man. While I am supposedly Waiting him out to fall asleep, I am also Becoming Quiet, committing a random and necessary act of worship.

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