Be still, and know that I am God

News of how sound pollution hurts sea life came as a new neighbor, a woodpecker, started waking me every morning about 6 a.m., its beak pummeling my rain gutters. It's as if someone's jackhammering my roof. Now, I’m not a morning person, so my love of nature is tested as I fumble to open windows and shoo the bird away—which I’m sure makes good entertainment for my neighbors.

Noise, in the negative sense of the word, disturbs. Scientists have been studying how noise in ecosystems affects God’s creatures. For instance, on New Year’s Eve in Arkansas, a sudden die off of birds brought widespread media attention and spooked residents. The cause was thought to be the shock waves of nearby fireworks.

More recently, a report published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment gives evidence of damage done to marine life by underwater noise. Kieran Mulvaney provides a good overview in his blog at Discover News. Mulvaney writes, 

In the study, led by Michel André of the Technical University of Catalonia in Barcelona, biologists exposed 87 individual cephalopods of four species . . . to short sweeps of relatively low intensity, low frequency sound between 50 and 400 Hertz (Hz). Then they examined the animals' statocysts - fluid-filled, balloon-like structures that help these invertebrates maintain balance and position in the water. André and his colleagues found that, immediately following exposure to low frequency sound, the cephalopods showed hair cell damage within the statocysts. Over time, nerve fibers became swollen and, eventually, large holes appeared.

“If the relatively low intensity, short exposure used in our study can cause such severe acoustic trauma, then the impact of continuous, high intensity noise pollution in the oceans could be considerable,” said André in a press release to announce the findings.

In other words, noise can kill. Physically, yes, and I would add spiritually, too.

All this reminds me of the great, ancient Catholic spiritual tradition of silence. The example of Our Lord alone shows us his desire to go off and pray in silence. His forty days in the dessert, his retreats to silent areas, his praying in Gethsemane, all provide us with example after example of our own need to disconnect from our eWorld and simply, passively listen. To what? To the hush of wind, the far off songs of birds or the salty roar of the surf—to our thoughts, and God's voice within them.

Something to ponder.

In doing so, the following quotes by the saints, compliments of the blog White Lily of the Blessed Trinity, provide good reflections on the Catholic perspective on silence. For more, visit the website, and feel free to share your own in the comments section below.

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls.”
Blessed Mother Teresa

Whenever anything disagreeable or displeasing happens to you, remember Christ crucified and be silent.
St. John of the Cross

The tongue is a small member, but it does big things. A religious who does not keep silence will never attain holiness; that is, she will never become a saint. Let her not delude herself - unless it is the Spirit of God who is speaking through her, for then she must not keep silent. But, in order to hear the voice of God, one has to have silence in one's soul and to keep silence; not a gloomy silence but an interior silence; that is to say, recollection in God. (118)

St. Faustina

What we need most in order to make progress is to be silent before this great God with our appetite and with our tongue, for the language he best hears is silent love.  
St John of the Cross, OCD

No man is safe in speaking unless he loves to be silent. No man rules safely unless he is willing to be ruled.
Imitation of Christ

And so as we approach Holy Week, I wish you all the growth and self awareness that comes from spending quiet time with God.

Title from Psalm 46:10.

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About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.