At the end of a busy semester, I find myself longing for the summer and craving silence. I don't just mean a lack of noise, but the silence found in being alone. But those anticipated hours of solitude and quiet reading are already getting lost in the hunt for a summer job, and in the ambitious list of must-reads, concert tickets, and social events.
It's difficult to make time for a bit of quiet (and solitude) each day, even when you want it more than anything; after all, we live in a culture of high stimulation. According to Pew Research Center, 67% of cell phone users check their phones even when they're not ringing or vibrating. In 2012 the average teen sent nearly 60 texts everyday, and that was three years ago. My own MacBook and iPhone are humbling reminders of my dependence on the accoutrements of the age. I, too, rely on multiple devices for entertainment and communication (you can probably relate). I inherited the the Cartesian way: I think and act quickly.
Too quickly, I would argue.
How many young people contemplate and immerse themselves in the peace of study, or spend enough time alone? We need people who are comfortable—perhaps even most comfortable—in quiet.
Maybe we may avoid quiet and solitude because we're afraid of finding nothing there. Maybe we're too accustomed to noise and company to realize that our actions are based on the urgings of those around us, on their aspirations for popularity, and on a mechanical cycle of "goals and achievement" rather than our own gifts and desires. Without music and noise and the voices of others, we are left with ourselves: our consciences, our desires, our own voices, the stories that polish our paths, and the dreams that outline future courses. This is human nature, the rough and incredible and painful and remarkable thing that it is.
So, even though it's difficult, I think it's vital that we commit to a bit of quiet each day, not only for the sake of self-knowledge and recollection, but also for the sake of our studies and occupations, for the sake of a world that needs and lacks the silent parts of human nature.
If we are conserving anything, let's conserve quiet, solitude, contemplation, leisure, and beauty. Read in silence, sketch, write something, admire the mysterious formations of cloud just before a summer storm. Because from within this solitude will arise our artists and poets, our philosophers and politicians, our teachers and saints.