Getting Rid of the Noise

One of our excursions while in the northern part of the state of Minnesota was to the Soudan Underground Mine. The mine now houses the Soudan Laboratory, one of a small number of deep underground physics laboratories around the world. The lab is about a half mile underground.

Why operate a physics lab so far underground? Basically, the earth acts as a shield controlling the amount of cosmic rays that reach the sensitive machinery in the lab designted to study neutrinos. Or as the guide said simply: it is just too noisy on the surface to hear what we need to hear. The difference between a facility above ground and one underground, he suggested, is like the difference between trying to carry on a conversation during a rock concert and hearing classical music playing in the background.

Moral of the story: It is important to filter out the extraneous noise to hear what we are trying to hear.

The analogy to our spirtiual life is a pretty obvious one. God speaks to us all of the time, but we often don’t hear what God is trying to say to us. James Martin, S.J., in his newest book, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, writes, “Being silent is one of the best ways to listen to God, not because God is not speaking to you during your noisy day, but because silence makes it easier to listen to your heart… If your environment (inside and outside) is too noisy, it might be hard to hear what God, your friend, is trying to say.”

What it means to get rid of the noise will vary from person to person. For most of us it doesn’t require something as drastic as moving a half-mile under the surface of the earth. It may be as simple as unplugging from our cell phones and internet now and then during the course of the day. But whatever you do, think about how you might give yourself the gift of silence.


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