You Can’t Be Serious - ‘The good life…’
You Can’t Be Serious – ‘The good life…’

There I was driving along in my little dog-catcher van and listening to the News at One on the radio. I always like to catch the news so as to be able to impress the first person I meet at the other end with my knowledge of current affairs. (No, they are different affairs, Lads.) As the news finished I must have been distracted by something like attention to driving, because before I knew it, the first caller to Joe Duffy’s ‘Whinetime’ was through. Instinctively I Stabbed frantically at button #2 to get away from somebody who was objecting to not being allowed take their Alsatian adult dancing.

Nothing to engage me on the next channel, or the one after that. After hitting five buttons the realisation dawned on me that the best button at that point was the little one above the others with a wee red spot; the ‘off’ button. And so it came to pass that for the remainder of my drive, I cruised along, taking note of the enchanting countryside – and all in blissful peace and silence.

If you think about it, silence is a scarce commodity in today’s world; so much so that some people cannot function without background noise or music (often one and the same thing!) Some intrusive noises we have no control over, but some of it, like radio and recorded music we have control over – by using a similar little ‘off button’ like the one in my van.

Most of us like music, but it is sometimes just so soothing on the brain to experience the restfulness of total silence –especially in your own home. Even here, it isn’t easy to obtain complete silence. You think there is no sound in the house until you hear the silence of a power cut. That is real silence and you immediately notice the difference …

So isn’t it funny that an absence of sound would suggest emptiness, but in fact the opposite is the case. Silence adds a fullness to mind, body and spirit. It improves concentration, lowers blood pressure, stimulates the brain, helps you sleep better due to its calming effect – as well as numerous other health benefits.

I do a fair bit of walking. A lot of the people I meet on our strides have ear-phones stuck to their head. I am not knocking these people if the bit of music to the ear is what drives them on, but they lose out on the stimulation of the ordinary world around them and seeing things close up. I only use ear-phones if there is occasionally an important match to be kept in touch with, or something big anticipated on the news.

Our subconscious clicks in when we clear the head through silence. I have often solved a problem when the answer came without any effort on a quite country walk. Most of the ideas for these columns come about in a similar fashion.

Many people are so used to background noise that they cannot function without it. As a kid I remember my cousin coming each year to spend the Summer with us. I was highly amused by the fact that Shawn couldn’t sleep at night for the first week because the place was so quiet! If you are like my cousin, I would suggest that you start by giving yourself just a few minutes of silence every day and increase the duration over time. Learning to become quiet stores energy in the human battery, reduces stress and saves expending unnecessary vitality.

Periods of silence not only rest the brain, but can lead to physical healing as well. The body needs relaxation in order to heal itself. When you are under stress, your body’s repair mechanism is disabled. When you cultivate silence and stillness, the soothing effect on your brain will instruct your body to relax as well. It may take time to develop the habit of silence, but it is well worth trying it.

Going to school in Johnstown, we learned of ancient Irish monks who took vows of silence and sometimes the reason why. I don’t know if there are any religious orders still taking such vows, but certainly there are loads of examples of what one might term ‘vows of partial silence.’ When today’s monk takes a vow of silence, it usually means abstinence from speech for specific times of the day, although it could go on generally for a few days.

It is also claimed that keeping silent helps develop stronger will power. I don’t need that one – because I have given up all I’m going to give up!


Don’t Forget

Some of us learned many years ago that the only substitute for intelligence is to keep your mouth shut.