Last week, Julie and I went to our favorite restaurant in midtown Sacramento. The food, as always, was delicious, but the dining experience was exhausting.
It is never quiet in the crowded, little restaurant. Concrete floors and hard surfaces cause every sound to bounce around for a full minute before it begins to decay. On this night, the effect was deafening. A pulsing beat from the loudspeakers added a primitive energy to the room.
Next to us, a half a dozen women sat crowded around a small table, making short work of their cocktails. One of these was clearly the center of attention, not by virtue of any virtue, but simply by virtue of her volume.
Her eyebrows rested on her forehead like exclamation points. When she spoke, it was like having a flashlight shined in your eyes. Her piercing, nasal voice cut effortlessly through the cacophony.
Julie and I attempted to communicate, but when this woman was speaking, we had no chance. It was comical. We laughed and waited for a break.
Sometimes I feel like I live in that restaurant. In the background, the primitive drumbeat of desire energizes everything from the cars we drive, to the movies we watch, to the churches we attend, to the women we marry, to the politicians we vote for.
The voices that get the most attention do so not by virtue of any virtue, but simply by being the loudest. Conversation is not possible in a room in which everyone is trying to outshout everyone else.
We will never find an answer to the mess we are in until we stop giving the floor to the loudest mouth. We must learn to listen for the truest voice. This voice never comes in the whirlwind, or the earthquake, or the fire, but always in the stillness and smallness of silence.