Exiting the Noise

Around noon yesterday the electricity went off in our cottage in Rockport. The dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, refrigerator, and lights all stopped. Suddenly it was silent. And it was so welcome. 

If it hadn’t been for friends coming to stay and wanting them to have a good time, with lights and all appliances working properly, I could have sat in the quiet for hours. It was a gift to be free of the hum of background noise.

I realize how much noise is in my life, and how much I need to escape this noise. 

Last week I thought I would scream for the voices raging all over social media. I thought I would explode if I saw one more essay on how someone was going to commit suicide but they didn’t. How the pills were counted, the day was set. It’s not that I don’t care. I deeply care about mental illness. As someone who has sat beside loved ones in psychiatric emergency rooms my heart stops every time I hear about someone struggling, someone who doesn’t want to live, whose depression is so thick that they can’t see through.

But it felt like so much noise. How would knowing a stranger’s methods for taking her own life help me cope with the suicide of a well-loved Hollywood comedian? The answer for me was easy – it wouldn’t. The noise continued through all the tragedies and issues. The verbal sparring, a hallmark of today’s online communities, was non-stop. Like heavy traffic after a car accident so that you no longer care about the accident that took someone’s life – you just want it all to end. You want the traffic to stop, you want to get home so you can cradle your head in your hands and think.

I don’t want to be fed reactions 24/7; I want to be able to quiet the noise, escape the crowds, and think.

I want to go away to the mountain and pray.

“Think about it, Mom” says my son “prayer is the highest form of empathy, the greatest act of compassion.” 

This son of mine, nineteen years old, yet so wise, so beyond his years in wisdom and compassion. And he’s right.

So I need to exit the noise. I need to remove myself for a bit. I want what I write to be meaningful and to connect us, to start dialogue and promote thought and healing. I don’t want what I write to be the noise of one more opinion.

So today I’ll exit the noise for a bit. I’ll try to figure out what I think and feel. Most of all, I will pray. I will learn to pray more. I will seek to have the highest form of empathy and live out compassion for those far removed from me by geography, race, and circumstance.

Thank you for connecting in this space! I pray this week is one of peace and grace, that in the midst of the noise of a million opinions, you know who you are and what you think. Because sometimes I think I’ve forgotten.

Three essays that I would recommend this week: 

  • A Life of Prayer Amidst News of Death” recommended by my friend LaraQuote: “Neil Postman introduced the idea of the “low information to action ratio,” the concept that technology has made it possible to know details of suffering so remote from our everyday lives that we seemingly can do nothing in response—we have information without any clear action with which to respond. A low information to action ratio leads to callousness—we desensitize ourselves to suffering—or to despair because we are overwhelmed by the scale of world-wide suffering. We are small people who, for the most part, live quiet lives, but we have access to endless stories of pain and brokenness.” 
  • The Cross and the Molotov Cocktail” by Christena Cleveland. Quotes: “Can you see the Imago Dei in these young men? Can you see the suffering Christ in their rage?” “And make no mistake, our God is a God of justice. The young black men who launch Molotov cocktails at the police are misappropriating God’s justice by taking it into their own hands, but the rage they feel is the rage that God feels towards injustice. In a sense, they are imaging forth God’s justice to an unjust world.Seeing the suffering Christ in these young men isn’t achieved by theological gymnastics, deep pity, or altruism. It’s done by listening to their stories, sharing life, standing in solidarity with them, and experiencing their rage.”
  • An Allegory of Faithfulness” at She Loves Magazine by Rachel Pieh Jones. Quote: “The man who covered her turns away from her, for a time. But he does not forget the covenant he made, his oath that bound him to her, and her to him. She turns away from her sin, back to the one who had saved her before and he receives her again. He once again, washes her, restores her and dignifies her. He bestows his splendor on her so that again, she is beautiful.”

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15 thoughts on “Exiting the Noise

  1. I’m a young mom who was actively apart of social media for years. This past year I’ve felt a growing discomfort in my heart with what you call “the noise.” I even began experiencing symptoms of anxiety surrounding time spent on Facebook or Instagram, and struggling with discontent and distractedness. Several months ago I couldn’t take it anymore; I deleted my Facebook account. Last month I finally removed my Instagram account from my phone. I can’t tell you the relief I feel. My husband tells me the news I need to know. I follow a couple blogs that edify me. I am in touch with an amount of people proportionate to the time I have to give. And my life has taken on a new velvety quietness.


    1. I am so thankful you came by. This is such a testimonial and challenge to me. I’ve had a really lovely week and set some good boundaries in place. I realize that without perimeters in my life on what I can and can’t do – it will surely take over and cause the angst that I don’t need. I have had to block certain blogs for instance because I know if I go to them I’ll get upset and it’s so stupid. So thank you. This is a message that needs to be heard.


      1. I Marilyn. I just sent you a message through your “About” page on your blog. I wanted to just send it to you, then, after I submitted it, got worried that maybe it would show up as a comment posted on that page of the blog. It’s super long…don’t want it to take up all that space…plus I was just trying to send it to you. All that to say, please delete it off of the blog if it shows up there. :-) – Mandy Date: Fri, 22 Aug 2014 20:02:01 +0000 To: alaskapieh@hotmail.com


  2. I think this is an area where I struggle — and now having moved, the pace of life is much slower than in S. Korea, the urgency is not quite there, the silence and electricity and void and lack of internet stares me in the face on a daily basis. But that struggle is also teaching me, teaching me that although I am not ‘there’ yet, it isn’t about a destination, but the process of learning to listen through the noise.


  3. I have seriously been feeling this lately. Enjoying my summer with my kids and don’t even want to write my next post for ALO . . . must make myself do that tomorrow and Friday! But I think I just got tired of everyone with loud opinions and fighting words. Wow. Exhausts me and I’m avoiding it. I ask myself what helpful thing I could possibly add to the cacophony, and I come up empty. So. Avoiding. Ha!


    1. thank you Lou Ann – and such a lovely email from you. I read it Saturday morning and then reread it in the afternoon and then again on Sunday :) Thank you.


  4. Marilyn, thanks so much for this. You are a kindred spirit. I too relish, crave, and am sustained by periods of QUIET…alone with my thoughts and alone with God. I appreciate your sensitivity and restraint from the urge to “put your two cents in” on any and every topic that’s in the news and all over the web. Sticking to what you’re passionate about, what God is doing in and through you, what He’s leading and prompting you to write about…that’s very wise…I admire you for it.

    Rachel and I got to have a nice long visit at a Pieh Family get-together in Minnesota a few weeks ago…so fun! We agreed that we both love your blog. Keep up the good work. And congrats on the book! :-)


    1. Thank you so much for these words and the affirmation of stepping away. You can probably imagine I have a great many opinions :) but I constantly have to ask myself, do I want to share them so I get readers or do I feel compelled to share them because of God – and who he is in this world and what I long to communicate. So thank you so much for getting that.
      I want to go to a Pieh Family reunion!! How fun is that?! Do you come from Alaska every year for it? Also I was thinking about Alaska and the mainland and how much you are living between worlds…..
      Thanks so much for reading and for supporting and loving the quiet.


    1. The essay was so beautiful – resonated deeply. One of the things I deeply admire about your writing is your ability to go poetic and then instructive and then story….it’s amazing.


  5. I have to say that I am very thankful for my new apartment in Brooklyn! The only sound is the whirring of the air conditioner and it keeps me cool so I like the sound of it. I hear no honking, yelling, or anything!

    But even more importantly, it’s important to be in silence in a world full of opinions and “yelling” over the internet, etc.

    Thanks for this, mom!


    1. I love hearing this about your new space, and I love being able to picture you there. I hope this year holds many good healthy moments of quiet in that lovely space. So much love to you.


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