The Inner Slum, Part 1: Noise Pollution

Now is a good time for this reprint from the previous blog:

OUTER SLUMS

Dirt. Noise. Chaos. These are the first three things you notice whenever you enter a slum neighborhood.

The dirt. Rundown buildings. Garbage overflowing in the streets. Broken glass on the ground. People throwing garbage down onto the ground around their feet.

The noise. How very loud everything is. The shouted conversations held with people who are standing two feet away from the speaker. Shouting and yelling for people down the street. Shouting and yelling for people across the street. Loud cell phone conversations. The ever-present loud music. Music so loud that you can feel the drumbeat vibrating in your bones.

The chaos. Unattended small children darting in and out of the street. Clusters of idle, grown men standing on street corners. Clusters of idle, grown men standing around discarded sofas and chairs in the middle of vacant lots. Entire families sitting on their front stoops during what should be normal work and school hours. Swarms of teenagers yelling and cursing while waiting at bus stops. Traffic disruptions because a driver is making frequent stops in the middle of the street to throw gang signs at pedestrians.

These are the signs of an outer slum.

INNER SLUMS

Inner slums have similar signs. Inner slums consisting of dirt, noise, and chaos exist within people’s hearts and minds. Without frequent cleaning and renovations, your inner environment will quickly turn into an inner slum. A slum that you carry around with you.

When you don’t refresh and renew your mind you will find that no matter where you go in life, The World is a Ghetto.

The prevalence of inner slums is one of the reasons why Black folks are in such a sorry state. Yes, there are external problems and opponents. However, these external obstacles are so successful in slowing our roll because of our internal weaknesses. We generally refuse to address inner weaknesses. We fear introspection. We fear silence.

Even those people who actually want to renew their minds face hidden problems with their efforts. One such problem is that it’s impossible to renew your mind in the midst of noise pollution. Noise pollution is a slum value. When I say “slum value,” I’m not referring to income levels. I’ve seen many Black professionals who live slum lifestyles with slum values. I’ve seen many poor Black folks who do not live with slum values. Noise pollution is so prevalent that most of us perceive it as normal. This is what makes it a hidden problem. We can’t hear how noisy our living spaces are. Silence has become an aberration for most Black people. What we fail to realize is that silence is part of the internal cleansing and renewal process. Periods of silence take you out of your daily routine. Silence forces you to take a fresh look at yourself and your surroundings. I believe that this is why most Black people are deeply afraid of silence.

THE POISONOUS FRUIT OF USING TELEVISION AS A BABYSITTER

Noise pollution is a slum value whose origin is often found in another slum value: Using the television as a babysitter. Many people in my age group (40s) were among the first generation of Black children who were raised by being propped in front of the tv for hours at a time. Many of us have raised our own children in the same fashion. And so the cycle repeats, and becomes accepted as normal.

As a result, there are now several generations of Black people who live with the television on 24 hours a day, every single day. The tv is never turned off while people are inside the home. People will often have the tv and loud music playing simultaneously. In many modern Black households, conversations are shouted over the din of the tv and music. Meals are eaten around the tv.

We often say that Black people need to turn off the tv and read. This is true. What we don’t realize is that many of us simply can’t do this. Many of us are literally addicted to noise. I’ve watched small Black children immediately turn on the tv the moment they enter a room, even though they have no intention of watching it. I’ve watched Black adults do this as well. They’ve been conditioned to be ill at ease with silence. Most of us are deeply afraid of silence.

There’s a difference between noise addiction and a purposeful use of noise. There is purpose in using these distractions to pass the time in an unpleasant setting (such as sitting in the auto repair shop, etc.). There is purpose in using the tv, radio, and phone to keep oneself company when alone; although it’s better to seek out actual company.

There’s also a difference between cleansing silence and other uses of silence. Sometimes silence is used as a barricade to keep other people out of our lives and our hearts. Sometimes silence is used as a weapon to punish the people closest to us. This is not the kind of silence that I’m suggesting you practice. I’m also not suggesting that people go “cold turkey” and abruptly turn off their tvs, computers, radios, and iPods. That’s just too big a step for most people who are deeply conditioned to living in noise. I’m suggesting that we use daily moments of silence to refresh our perceptions, and thereby refresh our minds. For example, why not:

Observe one minute of silence and stillness at various points during the day. A minute of silence before beginning your work. A minute before going to bed. A minute of silence wherever you can fit it in.

Create a quiet room or space in your home (to whatever extent this is possible).

I’d like to hear about your experiences with silence. Did you enjoy the experience? Was any part of it difficult? How do you feel about silence?

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25 Responses to “The Inner Slum, Part 1: Noise Pollution”

  1. Rcoleman says:

    You know…. I have to laugh because if you ask my sons they will tell you that “Mom likes a quiet house.” No loud music, no loud TV, no yelling. I strictly enforce that. I’m not a fan of prolonged loud situations. I am one of those people that need silence everyday, especially at night and early morning. I am more acutely aware of my surroundings and in tune with the normal sounds- like walls creaking and such.

    Just this year I bought a brand new TV. This was after 8 months of using the old TV with a blown sound card. When the sound card blew I told them that they needed to use the closed caption feature on the TV (because I was not about to buy a new one anytime soon since it is not a necessity in my house)..that way they could read and watch TV at the same time. I also bought both of them their own dictionaries so that they could look up any words they did not quite understand. When we got the new TV I told them that if I could hear it in the next room clearly then it is too loud. The channels are blocked by channel and rating so there is not too much for them to watch anyway.

    At work people know that I’m on shift due to the lack of music playing. Now don’t get me wrong- I like music but I like silence even better.

  2. RColeman,

    You said, “I’m not a fan of prolonged loud situations. I am one of those people that need silence everyday, especially at night and early morning.”

    I feel the same way. I like music (of various different types) at times. But I also like quiet. And I don’t like prolonged loudness.

    You said, “Just this year I bought a brand new TV. This was after 8 months of using the old TV with a blown sound card. When the sound card blew I told them that they needed to use the closed caption feature on the TV (because I was not about to buy a new one anytime soon since it is not a necessity in my house)..”

    Now, you know—this one choice of yours puts you squarely in the “nut” category as far as most AAs are concerned! 🙂 It reminds me of how horrified most AAs are when they discover that I don’t own a microwave—which they think is absolutely crazy. (“How do you heat food?” Answer: “You know . . . by using the oven…”)

    Expect Success!

  3. Nathalie says:

    Love this. I see TV addictions everywhere as well; to me it looks like people go into a trance when they turn it on. I had to laugh when people oohed and ahhed over Inception, since most of them have and watch TVs, which are nothing more than an Inception device(which you pay for)thinly disguised as entertainment. I grew up with limited tv allowed and it makes a difference. Instead, I had to do school work and chores, bike, explore, walk my dogs, read and connect with other people. This means time to experience, think and observe. I’m trying to do the same with my child. My husband and stepkids are TV junkies, so it’s taken a while, but I’ve eliminated cable so now my son doesn’t have to see people turn into TV zombies the minute they enter a home with a tv. I also love silence and am glad to have more of it in my home now that cable is dead.

  4. Karen R says:

    This is so timely. I have been on an information noise fast for the past week. I am a news and information junkie who regularly read 3 newspapers daily and several news-related blogs. I found that a lot of what I was reading was not benefitting me spiritually or emotionally. Did I really need to know about the recent shooting, the recent police raid, etc.? This “noise” is what I have had to eliminate. I got this idea from a previous blog and your recommendation of the book The Four Hour Workweek. Going forward my blog roll will be paired down to 3-4 once per week and my newspaper reading will be reduced to the Sunday edition of The NY Times. The TV is not a big issue for me….I was too busy reading!lol. However in the fall of any year a visitor to my home would hear Big Ten football. ;-))

  5. During the day when I’m at home alone, the house is totally silent. I might turn on the radio to npr while cooking or cleaning, but other than that I like a quiet house. I turn the fan on when I sleep because I like white noise.

    We’re not big TV watchers, and probably wouldn’t have cable at all except my husband is an avid soccer fan. We usually turn the stereo on after dinner and dance. My son particularly likes this. We don’t own iPods, though I’m thinking about getting one for running. I guess because I grew up in an overcrowded house I’ve always just enjoyed silence, and as I age I enjoy it even more. One of my fave things to do in the morning after everyone is gone is to sit on my porch and enjoy a cup of tea. I love just listening to the birds start their day. (I’m totally annoyed here in Atlanta by the plethora of landscapers and their loud obnoxious machines. Does no one rake leaves anymore?)

    • We usually turn the stereo on after dinner and dance. My son particularly likes this.

      I felt good vibes as soon as I read this. What a beautiful image.

      We don’t own iPods

      Me neither. Mine broke a few years ago and I haven’t missed it at all. I live on campus and use public transportation and its amazing how much you can learn by just paying attention to what’s going on around you. I’ve picked up on valuable information by not being so much in my own world when I am out and about.

  6. Nathalie,

    You said, “I grew up with limited tv allowed and it makes a difference.”

    Yes, it does make a difference. I’ve noticed that this one factor has a huge long-term impact on how one spends free time as an adult.

    You said, “Instead, I had to do school work and chores, bike, explore, walk my dogs, read and connect with other people. This means time to experience, think and observe.”

    I had a similar childhood and teenage experience. I was mostly too busy doing things to watch much tv. I do recall watching specific things, but nothing like the 4-6 hours/day zone-out that I see with so many people.

    It’s even scarier to see how so many modern AA children never really play with other kids—at most, they get together in very small groups to play video games. You don’t see a blockful of children playing together outside very much anymore. And we wonder why so many modern children are extremely poorly socialized, can’t cooperate with others, and can’t get along with other people. In terms of adult life, I see a lot of middle-aged AAs who don’t have any hobbies or interests outside of tv, partying, drinking and card games (or some combination of the above).
    __________________________________________________

    KarenR.,

    You said, “This is so timely. I have been on an information noise fast for the past week.”

    Good for you. This is my lead-in post for unplugging this week. I periodically take breaks (or “fast” as you put it) from the gadgets. Starting Tuesday, and through the rest of the week, I’m going to unplug from the computer, tv, and so on. The plan is to come back to the gadgets on next Monday, August 30th.

    You said, “I am a news and information junkie who regularly read 3 newspapers daily and several news-related blogs. I found that a lot of what I was reading was not benefitting me spiritually or emotionally. Did I really need to know about the recent shooting, the recent police raid, etc.? This “noise” is what I have had to eliminate. I got this idea from a previous blog and your recommendation of the book The Four Hour Workweek.”

    Yep, I also used to be a “news junkie.” I haven’t watched the local news in several years, and it’s been very peaceful. I haven’t missed a thing by not listening to news reports about the latest atrocities. It’s also been extremely relaxing to tune out the noise that passes for politics. I’ve discovered that when you watch/listen to most corporate news, you’re not actually becoming informed—you’re wasting your time. And you’re also soaking up lots of “Inception” (as Nathalie pointed out in her comment). [That’s how there are growing numbers of fools in the US who choose to believe that Pres. Obama is Muslim. The more “news” they watch, the dumber and more MIS-informed these people become.]
    __________________________________________

    Roslyn,

    I don’t want people to get the idea that I never watch tv. I haven’t watched the so-called news in several years, but I would watch specific science fiction shows (which are now off, like Battlestar Galactica). However, even with that, I wasn’t arranging my real-life schedule around the handful of shows I watched. I also didn’t consistently watch them every week. I would tune in for a couple of episodes and then not watch again for several months.

    Similar to what you do on your porch, I like to lean back in my chair near an open window (in my case with a cup of hot chocolate), feel the breeze, and listen to the outdoor sounds.

    Expect Success!

  7. Faith says:

    Well.. Silence IS Golden

    Growing up in a very active household I’ve come to appreciate quiet. In the safety of one’s home quiet is good. While I don’t like the type of scenarios presented in certain residential areas I tend to not like areas that are semi-deserted and quiet either, but I know that’s not really the purpose of this post.

    Right now I’ve had it so quiet at night the birds gathering in the backyard trees have woken me up at 430am because of their communicating.

  8. Muse says:

    Growing up my siblings and I were only allowed to watch 3 hours of television on the weekends. I assumed that other kids had the same restrictions on television as well. It wasn’t until I got older when I realized that most children watched as much as six hours of television per day. Even if my parents didn’t have restrictions of television, my siblings and I had full lives that included academics, arts, sports, and socializing with other kids. In the summer we went to overnight camp and travelled on family vacations. We had a backyard and a tree house. We were more interested in playing in the tree house than wasting hours away in front of the idiot box. I distinctly remembered what shows I enjoyed growing up because there was only a handful that I was allowed to watch. But now kids are entertained by violent video games and inappropriate television. Black youth would rather watch BET than read a good book or go outside to actually play. Do kids even know what it means to play anymore? In college I had a roommate who slept with the television on. She would get upset if the television was ever turned off but then had the nerve to wonder why she was struggling in college. The constantly noise drove me insane to the point where I ended up getting my own bedroom my sophomore year.

    Most people I know actually have a television in their bedroom, which is bizarre to me. Having a television in your bedroom is bad sleep hygiene. How can you get your body and mind in a state of rest with the television blasting in the background? I believe the raise in cardiac and mental disorders is linked to bad sleep hygiene, which may also be linked to having a television in the bedroom.

    Television is a form of mental poison that makes the individual delusional and takes away their capacity to think. Why is it that many black kids can’t read or do basic mathematics but know all the lyrics to destructive music or the latest gossip about their favorite entertainers? Parents are using television because they don’t have the mental stamina to deal with the children they brought into this world. They want someone else or even an artificial device to play parent.

    Most people are unable to accomplish their goals and live fulfilling lives because they are wasting their valuable time watching television and doing mindless activities on the Internet. I’m not against the Internet because I believe it is a valuable source of information but if your web activities consist of hours of looking at gossip blogs or other time wasters then you might have a problem. Sometimes it’s good to unplug and see the world. There are times I have to take an electronic sabbatical where I turn off my cell phone, unplug the Internet and go into nature. It’s very freeing to smell the ocean or the plant life. It’s nice to just get away and do absolutely nothing and be alone with your thoughts and God (if that’s what you believe in).

    • Most people are unable to accomplish their goals and live fulfilling lives because they are wasting their valuable time watching television and doing mindless activities on the Internet. I’m not against the Internet because I believe it is a valuable source of information but if your web activities consist of hours of looking at gossip blogs or other time wasters then you might have a problem.

      I’ll admit to being guilty of this. As much as I want to be proud of not watching TV, I know that I use the internet to waste just as much or even more time. I’ve been surprised at how hard it is to drag myself away from the internet when I have something else to do and when I am not doing anything that compelling on the internet. To counteract this I have started giving myself time time-limits on how much non-productive time I am allowed on the internet.

      Thank you for sharing your story.

  9. Faith,

    You said, “While I don’t like the type of scenarios presented in certain residential areas I tend to not like areas that are semi-deserted and quiet either, but I know that’s not really the purpose of this post.”

    It’s interesting that quiet conjures up images of an area being “semi-deserted.” When I think of semi-deserted areas, I think of industrial blocks in the city where there aren’t any (or many) residential buildings on the block. When I think of quiet areas, I think of my childhood neighborhood (my parents’ block is still relatively quiet—praise God); or my current neighborhood. In both cases, there are people around. They’re just not having shouted conversations. You can hear the murmur of them talking to each other as they go about their business, but you can’t make out the conversation.

    You said, “Right now I’ve had it so quiet at night the birds gathering in the backyard trees have woken me up at 430am because of their communicating.”

    Yeah, those early-morning bird meetings are … interesting. The bird meetings don’t seem so loud once people are up and around. But they ARE loud when there’s nobody else moving around outside (such as at 4:30-5:00 a.m. 🙂 ).
    __________________________________________________

    Muse,

    You said, “We were more interested in playing in the tree house than wasting hours away in front of the idiot box.”

    The same with me. I was more interested in drawing (my own comics books, among other things), and playing outside than anything that was on tv.

    You said, “Do kids even know what it means to play anymore?”

    I wonder about that because I haven’t seen many children playing outside for about at least the last 15 years. You might see some kids playing in a (suburban) park. Not so much in city parks—thugs seem to own those spaces.

    You said, ” In college I had a roommate who slept with the television on.”

    A lot of people use tv as white noise for sleeping.

    You said, “Most people I know actually have a television in their bedroom, which is bizarre to me. Having a television in your bedroom is bad sleep hygiene.”

    I agree. I’ve never been into the idea of having a tv in the bedroom.

    You said, “Most people are unable to accomplish their goals and live fulfilling lives because they are wasting their valuable time watching television and doing mindless activities on the Internet.”

    I agree. I’m amazed that more AAs don’t seem to notice how UN-productive most of us are. Nor do we notice the connection between our NON-productivity and the hours and hours we spend each day caught up in tv, surfing gossip blogs, and so on.

    You said, “Sometimes it’s good to unplug and see the world. There are times I have to take an electronic sabbatical where I turn off my cell phone, unplug the Internet and go into nature.”

    That starts tomorrow for me. Tonight just before the stroke of midnight, I’m going to turn the comments off to the recent posts, and start my mini-sabbatical.

    Expect Success!

  10. When I had my old apartment, I did not have any cable television-so, while there was a TV there, nothing would come on when I turned it on. I only used the TV for watching the occasional old movie (on DVD.) I love quiet. My mother is one of the people you mentioned-she hates quiet and didn’t like it when she would come over to my place and all she would hear is silence. I have since moved back home (until I find my new locale closer to my job) and I miss my quiet apartment! My mother is off for the summer (she is a teacher) and she has 3 TVs on at all times. Whenever she’s home, TVs are on in every room, except for mine-I don’t use my TV anymore. I usually get my quiet moments when I’m driving somewhere or when everyone leaves the house.

  11. I grew up with television although we didn’t get cable until I was 12 years old. I didn’t play with many children growing up but looking back I believe that not having a bunch of cable channels to watch growing up helped me form the HUGE imagination that I now have.

    After we got cable my brother and I began watching much more TV although whenever my mom was home the TV was always set to CNN or C-Span which has also helped foster my love for non-fiction. Whenever my brother and I would complain about the TV always being on something news-related my mom was quick to remind us that the people we were watching were making money off acting and we were wasting time that we would never be able to get back.

    Both of my parents are Nigerian and I always jealous of the way my mom grew up: always exploring outside and eating fresh food. She did not grow up with electricity so there was no TV or video games to be distracted by.

    My brother and I didn’t play outside too much growing up. Mostly because my mom had the immigrant mindset that America is a scary place where people are waiting to snatch your children up at any second. She only wanted us to play outside when she could watch us and because she worked so much and raised us by herself (my dad is a dbr Nigerian man) that rarely ever happened.

    I’m so glad that you’re taking a digital sabbatical; I can’t wait to hear all about it. I’m thinking about setting up one day a week where I don’t get on the internet or do any work. I’m calling it my “secular sabbath.”

  12. Joyousnerd says:

    I feel chagrined at this post… you are writing about ME! The culprit for me is reading constantly, but not always edifying material. I can go through 3-4 novels a week that do nothing to add to my character or repository of knowledge. I’m not totally wasting my time, as I’m very on top of my academics with the GPA to prove it. I wonder how much MORE I could accomplish if I wasn’t tied to my computer reading blogs or reading a trashy novel so often. I also read The 4 Hour Work Week and remember the warning about reading too much… but it’s hard for me to break the habit.

    I’m also guilty of letting my kids watch too much TV. Since they only watch educational programming and they are very advanced academically, I didn’t really worry too much about it, but I know it’s a bad habit. I think DH and I need to sit down and make some rules and a schedule up for the kids so that they can break this bad habit NOW.

  13. calpurnia says:

    So, that’s why the kids arent outside, theyre addicted to tv. It’s not just black kids neither. the neighborhoods are dead, even on saturdays. you know kids are there, just not outside. What is going to happen to them when they turn 30 and have diabetes? Also, the foreign minorities arent addicted to it as much, thats why theyre taking jobs that blacks were supposed to get ‘post civil rights’ (not putting down foreigners who are americans though)

  14. Jules says:

    I remember reading some time ago that there were certain TVs than were manufactured with devices that were able to watch what you were doing in your house..may have been a conspiracy theory, but I never looked at the TV the same after that. I keep one in the living room for guests, many find it odd I don’t have a TV in my bedroom, I could never live with a TV in the same space that I sleep. I have 4 channels and even my parents were shocked I cancelled the cable, they thought I had gone mad…heheheh.

    Silence is a good thing, I have always held the belief that you would only hear the voice of God in a silent place. All the major prophets have practiced meditation and prayer, if my mind serves me correct there are some order of monks and nuns, Christian, Buddhist and Hindus who practice utter silence for extended periods of time, they don’t even talk to each other in the monastery.

    Your home should be a sanctuary and a loud disorderly place of residence is not a home, it’s just a house.

  15. MissGlamtastic (Tia),

    You’ve said, “My mother is off for the summer (she is a teacher) and she has 3 TVs on at all times. Whenever she’s home, TVs are on in every room, except for mine-I don’t use my TV anymore.”

    I’ve seen this too. It’s like they’re going to make sure that a bit of quiet never catches up with them. {shaking my head}
    ___________________________________________

    RevolutionaryAndJoyful,

    You said, “My brother and I didn’t play outside too much growing up. Mostly because my mom had the immigrant mindset that America is a scary place where people are waiting to snatch your children up at any second.”

    Unfortunately, the US has become that sort of place. It wasn’t like that when I was a girl—at least it wasn’t in my neighborhood or that of the relatives that I spent a lot of time visiting. It’s definitely no longer safe to have the sort of childhood summer days that I had: Spending 10-11 hours playing outside on the block and only coming inside for water and bathroom breaks (while my parents were inside the house). In modern times, a parent does need to be outside watching the children play.

    You said, “I’m so glad that you’re taking a digital sabbatical; I can’t wait to hear all about it. I’m thinking about setting up one day a week where I don’t get on the internet or do any work. I’m calling it my “secular sabbath.”

    Good for you!
    ______________________________________________________

    JoyousNerd,

    You said, “I wonder how much MORE I could accomplish if I wasn’t tied to my computer reading blogs or reading a trashy novel so often. I also read The 4 Hour Work Week and remember the warning about reading too much… but it’s hard for me to break the habit.”

    It is something to consider. And not just in terms of productivity, but also in terms of overall optimal functioning. I think a balanced “diet” of different sorts of activities is probably best. I miss my martial arts classes. But unfortunately, securing my finances takes priority over that. I hope to have time to get back into classes once certain things are up and running.
    ____________________________________________________

    Calpurnia,

    You said, “So, that’s why the kids arent outside, theyre addicted to tv. It’s not just black kids neither. the neighborhoods are dead, even on saturdays. you know kids are there, just not outside. What is going to happen to them when they turn 30 and have diabetes?”

    What’s going to happen when more children come down with type 2 diabetes during their childhood? Will schools have to start scheduling regular insulin breaks along with bathroom breaks and lunch? {shudder}
    _________________________________________________________

    Jules,

    You said, “I remember reading some time ago that there were certain TVs than were manufactured with devices that were able to watch what you were doing in your house..may have been a conspiracy theory, but I never looked at the TV the same after that.”

    Well, there’s a creepy scene in the Michael Douglas thriller The Game where his tv is doing exactly that.

    You said, “All the major prophets have practiced meditation and prayer, if my mind serves me correct there are some order of monks and nuns, Christian, Buddhist and Hindus who practice utter silence for extended periods of time, they don’t even talk to each other in the monastery.”

    Yep.

    You said, “Your home should be a sanctuary and a loud disorderly place of residence is not a home, it’s just a house.”

    I agree.

    Expect Success!

  16. Sharifa says:

    This post is directed at me, too. I’m one of those people who has difficulty not having the t.v. on. At times I force myself to turn it off. I tell myself that the people on the t.v. don’t care anything about me or my goals, so I should be focusing more on that, instead of who-did-what-to who, or some program I’ve already seen for the millionth time. I know that I would be more productive if I turned it off more. I’m usually big on watching the local news, but lately, I’ve been choosing not to watch it.

    When I was a kid I watched a ton of tv, though I watched a lot of educational programs, and read a lot, too. Fortunately, I had the ability to not totally buy into a lot of what was being displayed on t.v.–I had critical thinking skills. I think my t.v. habits as an adult come from having to keep myself occupied and entertained so much as a kid. I think that what I watch now is usually worthwhile, but the volume of tv watching is excessive. Having the t.v. on takes away the feeling that you’re by yourself. But I guess it would be better to make efforts to be with other people.

    I’ve been thinking that I’d like to visit a Quaker church because as part of their services, they sit in silence. I think quiet contemplation is a good spritual practice.

    Thanks for your post. I had been thinking of this topic, so it’s nice to get a reminder of the importance of your inner environment. I think that AA’s have difficulty with silence because the silence would open the door to self reflection, and many have not developed the tools to be able to do that reflection and the resulting action/changes. They may not have seen anyone engage in that level of self-reflection. (Sorry if my response was all over the place, lol).

  17. Sharifa,

    You’re welcome! And no, your response wasn’t “all over the place.” 🙂

    It’s difficult to notice, much less change, habits that have been ingrained since childhood. For me, I find that it’s usually not enough to simply cut out the undesired habit—it has to be replaced with something else that I put in its spot.

    You said, “I’ve been thinking that I’d like to visit a Quaker church because as part of their services, they sit in silence. I think quiet contemplation is a good spritual practice.”

    I agree. I’ve also been fascinated by various silent, contemplative religious practices like the Quaker services, and walking the labyrinth. Here’s some info about the labyrinths at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco:

    Labyrinth Hours

    Grace Cathedral has two labyrinths. The outdoor labyrinth is made of terrazzo stone and is located to the right of the cathedral doors. This labyrinth is open 24 hours daily for walking.

    The indoor labyrinth is open during cathedral hours, which are normally 7:00 am to 6:00 pm Monday – Friday, 8:00 am to 6:00 pm Saturday, and 7:00 am to 7:00 pm on Sunday, when no special events or services are being held (weddings, funerals, concerts, Sunday Eucharist, etc.). On cathedral holidays, hours are 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. The cathedral also schedules events where the labyrinth is covered with chairs.

    Labyrinth walks should begin at least 1/2 hour before cathedral closing time. Please call 415.749.6300 to find out about scheduled events that may affect your labyrinth walk.

    General Information and Instructions

    Walking the Labyrinths at Grace Cathedral
    The Labyrinth is an archetype, a divine imprint, found in all religious traditions in various forms around the world. By walking a replica of the Chartres labyrinth, laid in the floor of Chartres Cathedral in France around 1220, we are rediscovering a long-forgotten mystical tradition that is insisting to be reborn.

    The labyrinth has only one path so there are no tricks to it and no dead ends. The path winds throughout and becomes a mirror for where we are in our lives. It touches our sorrows and releases our joys. Walk it with an open mind and an open heart.

    There are three stages of the walk:

    •Purgation (Releasing) ~ A releasing, a letting go of the details of your life. This is the act of shedding thoughts and distractions. A time to open the heart and quiet the mind.

    •Illumination (Receiving) ~ When you reach the center, stay there as long as you like. It is a place of meditation and prayer. Receive what is there for you to receive.

    •Union (Returning) ~ As you leave, following the same path out of the center as you came in, you enter the third stage, which is joining God, your Higher Power, or the healing forces at work in the world. Each time you walk the labyrinth you become more empowered to find and do the work you feel your soul reaching for.

    Guidelines for the walk:
    Quiet your mind and become aware of your breath. Allow yourself to find the pace your body wants to go. The path is two ways. Those going in will meet those coming out. You may “pass” people or let others step around you. Do what feels natural.

    If you can’t come walk the labyrinth in person, we hope you enjoy exploring the articles, interviews, and multimedia features below.

    This sounds so cool! 🙂 I should look to see if there’s something similar in the Chicago area.

    You said, “I think that AA’s have difficulty with silence because the silence would open the door to self reflection, and many have not developed the tools to be able to do that reflection and the resulting action/changes. They may not have seen anyone engage in that level of self-reflection.”

    I believe this is at the core of most AA dysfunction. We don’t have—and AREN’T trying to find or cultivate—the tools for reflection. This is why we always keep our focus outward. We do this across the board.

    1–We do this with political issues (everything is always outsiders’ fault/responsibility to fix).

    2–We do this with our styles of worship (loud, finger-popping, foot-stomping church music, screaming, falling out, cheering sections, church mimes, “amen corners,” and so on). We mostly have an aversion to contemplative spiritual practices and traditions.

    I believe there’s room for ecstatic spiritual practices. There’s also room to examine and shine the spotlight on what outsiders are doing to us. However, the external focus is only half the picture. There’s always an internal component to whatever’s going on. Our refusal to look inward leaves us half-blind and at a disadvantage because we’re unable to correct our errors.

    Expect Success!

  18. **Audience Note**

    I periodically take mini-sabbaticals away from the gadgets. I’m about to begin one such sabbatical around 10 minutes from now (at around midnight). While I’m away from the computer, the comments to the recent posts will be temporarily turned off.

    I plan to return to the computer (and blog) on Monday, August 30, 2010—I will enable the comments when I return.

    Expect Success!

  19. Faith says:

    Interesting you mentioned Grace Cathedral. It’s an architectural gem as well as offering many community programs. I’m still adjusting (and not liking) the different residential environment I’m in based on geography and services. For example the neighbors who own the corner house don’t turn their lights on at night and I’d prefer to be able to walk around at night without wondering if someone’s hiding in the bushes. I realize that I do prefer living in (safe) neighborhoods with more amenities and activity versus the suburbs.

  20. YMB says:

    Hi Khadija,

    Great post on a topic most people don’t often think about it. In all of my adult life, I have only had cable for just the past year or so and the only reason I have it now is because my fiancé insists on having it. I’ve never felt it was worth the cost. When I worked for an educational program for low-income families, I noted how many of the clients would complain about how they had no money and could not save for this or that needed items. All of these same clients had cable. I would suggest that they get rid of cable and they would just look at me like I’d just told them to go pick money off of a money tree outside.

    We’ve just moved to a new place and after reading this post, I insisted on not having the TV in the bedroom. My fiancé at first resisted stating he needed it to for when he has bouts of insomnia, but I think it likely disturbs my sleep to have the TV on into the wee hours of the morning. Also, everything I’ve read about insomnia stresses how important it is for insomniacs to have their bedrooms be rooms purposed for sleep only, not watching TV. At any rate, he’s been getting to sleep just fine without the mind-numbing lullaby of the TV.

    Another thing I’ve noticed is how today’s children (of all races) seem completely incapable of entertaining themselves. They have no imagination and must always be entertained by one whirring gadget or another. In the family car they are driven around with TVs hanging from the roof, or portable video games plugged into an adapter. When I was a kid, we sang, read books, and played games based on what we saw on the road.

  21. Work-related homework forced me to end my gadget sabbatical a day early. 🙁 Hmmph! I figured that I would do something I enjoyed (publish a blog post) in between doing my trial-related homework.

    Anyhoo:

    Faith,

    You said, “Interesting you mentioned Grace Cathedral. It’s an architectural gem as well as offering many community programs.”

    Yes, it is a gem. I was blessed to find out about it (and its labyrinths) from a documentary about silence, silent spiritual practices, and silent places a few years ago.
    ___________________________________________________

    Hello there, YMB!

    Thank you for your kind words about the post; I truly appreciate it. You said, “When I worked for an educational program for low-income families, I noted how many of the clients would complain about how they had no money and could not save for this or that needed items. All of these same clients had cable. I would suggest that they get rid of cable and they would just look at me like I’d just told them to go pick money off of a money tree outside.”

    Oh, yeah. {chuckling} Any talk of not watching tv, or not having cable will put one squarely in the “nut” category for a lot of folks. {more chuckling}

    You said, “Also, everything I’ve read about insomnia stresses how important it is for insomniacs to have their bedrooms be rooms purposed for sleep only, not watching TV. At any rate, he’s been getting to sleep just fine without the mind-numbing lullaby of the TV.”

    Good for him. I’ve noticed that when many insomniacs break down and actually make the effort to sleep without the tv playing, most are successful. Although, with some folks, it takes time to undo years of that particular counterproductive sleep habit.

    You said, “Another thing I’ve noticed is how today’s children (of all races) seem completely incapable of entertaining themselves. They have no imagination and must always be entertained by one whirring gadget or another. In the family car they are driven around with TVs hanging from the roof, or portable video games plugged into an adapter.”

    I’ve also noticed this. Even worse, their parents and most other adults around them cater to this refusal to learn how to entertain themselves.

    Worst of all, modern parents have browbeat the public schools into catering to this notion of keeping the children entertained. Meanwhile—in the real world—every student must pass through a period of rote, boring, repetition in order to eventually reach mastery of material. Most stuff only becomes amusing AFTER you’ve gotten past this period of rote repetition and drills. Unfortunately, too many modern American children don’t hang in long enough to get past the point of rote repetition. So, they don’t master anything. This toxic expectation of being entertained in school is an underlying reason why American children’s overall academic performance has gone down over the years.

    Expect Success!

  22. lunanoire says:

    This post fits a recent experience. I recently moved and decided not to get a radio, tv, or the internet for a month. One thing that occurred is that it seemed as if I grew in awareness so that it was easier and faster to identify what was troubling me, why, how to fix it, and to work on fixing it. Instead of distracting myself with gadgets, I was more likely to try do deal with issues and work on resolving them.

    I moved from a below-subsistence job job interacting with people with the problematic mentalities often mentioned on this blog to an above-subsistence position that permitted me to move to a safer, more vibrant neighborhood. Thank you to the host and members of this blog for the inspiration to help me get through hard times. It’s amazing what a difference a year makes! The journey is far from over, but it feels great to move up a notch on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and focus more on long range planning.

    • Lunanoire,

      {happy dancing in celebration of your victory—I’m sure there’ll be more to come}

      You’re welcome and thank YOU for sharing your experiences. Yes, it can be truly amazing the progress we make when we eliminate non-contributing, nonproductive distractions.

      I’m so happy for you! {more happy dancing}

      Expect Success!