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The Rev. Susan Sparks The Rev. Susan Sparks
The Rev. Susan Sparks is a former trial lawyer who now serves as senior pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York, NY.

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American Baptist Churches USA

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Madison Avenue Baptist Church, New York, NY

It's Time for a Silence Siesta

February 28, 2011


Perhaps you've heard the fable about the two frogs.  One accidentally hopped in a pot of boiling water.  When he felt the heat, he immediately jumped out.   The other frog hopped into a pot of cool water that was slowly being heated to a boil.  He swam happily around as the pot got hotter and hotter, oblivious to the rising danger. 

Sound familiar?  It should.  We too are swimming in a pot under slow boil unaware of the rising danger; and that danger is the rising decibels of noise.  Our lives are permeated with sound -- our iPod music, the blare of televisions pundits, the ringing of our cell phones, email alerts and tweet notices; noise that over time, we don't even realize is there.

While we may think it harmless, constant noise is a very real danger.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, for example, reports that the effects of excessive noise can include difficulty concentrating, stress, muscle tension, ulcers, increased blood pressure and hypertension.

Humans aren't the only ones vulnerable to its dangers.  Scientific studies have shown that human-created noise causes a similarly destructive response in wildlife, interfering with core life functions, such as foraging for food, mating and tending to the young.

While human beings don't seem to care, thankfully action has been taken on behalf of the ecosystem.  According to a recent New York Times article, the National Park Service (NPS) has implemented steps to restore quiet to some of its major parks.

In Muir Woods, for example, the great redwood forest outside San Francisco, a sort of "silence siesta" has been imposed:  parking lots have been moved farther from the entrance, electric maintenance vehicles now glide silently through the park and a decibel level meter now hangs outside the gift shop measuring the sounds of visitors' voices.  The forest appears to be responding, as two spotted owls were recently observed, an endangered species once believed lost to the area.

What if we followed the NPS lead and took a "silence siesta?"   What if we unplugged the iPod, silenced the cell, turned off the television, the radio, the alarms and the timers?  Even if only for half an hour a day, our blood pressure and stress levels might lower for those few precious moments.  With continued effort, maybe our concentration levels would sharpen.  With consistent time away from the daily "noise," perhaps our relationships with our partners, our spouses and our children might improve.  It worked in Muir Woods.  Why not in daily life?

Don't live your life in a fog of noise and distraction.  Don't, as James Thurber warned, lead a life of "noisy desperation."   Give yourself a little silence siesta.  Who knows?  A little peace and quiet might bring a renewed sense of healing, growth and possibility in your life; things, like those Spotted Owls, once believed lost. 

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