I am one of the millions who suffer from tinnitus, constant ringing in the ears. I would describe it as crickets chirping inside my head. You might better identify it as the sound a car makes when the brake pads need changing. I never hear that sound, it just blends in with my invisible long legged friends.
Most days it fades in as background noise to the routine sounds of life. Typically, I only become conscious of the ringing when the world around me is quiet. Thus, the more I am removed from noise the louder the noise inside my head seems. Silence is never silent.
The ringing fluctuates in volume. There are times when it is oppressively loud; screaming into my consciousness no matter how much sound surrounds me. Nothing can drown it out. These variations can be triggered by excessive dryness in the air or my skin, fluctuations in blood pressure, stress, or exposure to sudden loud noises.
I don’t know when the tinnitus began. I suspect I have had it to some degree since childhood. I have always used background noise to help me concentrate. I believe I was already afflicted in childhood without knowing the ringing was abnormal. Even in elementary school I did my homework with the TV on. Mom objected at first but relented as I kept my grades up.
As a result of tinnitus I have a different perspective on silence. Silence is for me not the absence of noise; it is rather the harmonious blending of the inner and outer noises of life. Silence is like peace which by its very nature presupposes a dynamic positive interaction between forces. In order for me to enter into silence I have to allow the inner and the outer to cancel each other out so that neither demands my attention. Silence is not so much the absence of noise as the presence of tranquility.
There is so much noise in today’s world. Some call it noise pollution: radio, TV, automobiles, air conditioners, airplanes, people, etc.. Competing with the external is all of the inner noise of stress and tension making silence and tranquility illusive commodities.
For me the goal is to enter into tranquility regardless of all of the competing sounds of life. I know it is not good to try to live in such a state, but it is necessary to visit there often. I find that place while sitting at my kitchen table watching the birds at their feeder, or watching my cows chew their cud, or simply walking through the woods. I sometimes go there during my morning exercises. I have found the discipline of retreating to those places where tranquility is easier to find empowers me for those occasions when peace is so hard to find. And yet I am fully aware peace is a gift from God, a gift that may be received under any circumstance. I do not retreat in order to find peace. I retreat to become better accustomed to it, more comfortable with the silence of tranquility. In this I become better prepared to accept God’s gifts in the noisy times of life.
I am thankful for the silence of tranquility, not the absence of noise, the presence of shalom. It is God’s gift and cure for tinnitus of the soul.
February 5, 2010