A CVS parking lot on a recent Sunday night is the last place I expected to encounter a pair of middle aged pony-tailed street musicians, strumming on their guitars. It was a muggy Indian summer evening with a day-glow yellow crescent moon perched in the sky as backdrop. The buskers were playing a languid blues riff and so I stopped. And then I listened. And then I breathed in and I breathed out. And then the weirdest thing happened.
The chatter stopped. The chatter of modern life, of a busy life, a stressed out life, of always being plugged in, on. The chatter of self doubt and questioning and worry too. I heard the music and I saw that beautiful moon and I felt the warm air and I actually noticed the world all around me, for the first time all day, maybe all week.
No more chatter. Wow.
We all are immersed in this noise, so much so that we may not even notice it anymore. Chatter in our brains and spirits working overtime, sometimes, it seems, all the time, from the hour we awaken at dawn until the moment we turn out the light and even then the chatter does not always cease. "What did I forget to do today? What do I have to do tomorrow?" Make the kids lunches and load the dishwasher and catch the train and gotta get going, get moving, get cracking. Chatter: on the radio in the car, sports radio blabbing, new radio blaring, talk radio yelling. Chatter: from ear buds we rarely take out. Chatter from a TV that's rarely off, reports of so much news, so much bad news, so many blowhard politicians and self-important pundits demanding our attention. Chatter: not just aural but visual too: a never ending Facebook feed and text messages that "beep" and "ding". "HEED ME! NOW!" There's internal chatter too: the nagging voice that tries to convince us, in spite of our best efforts, we are just not good enough or doing enough nor do we have enough nor are we just "enough".
So enough with the chatter. ENOUGH! Stop.
Thank God for those pharmacy troubadours and a sweet sliver of moon and late September balmy temps for they actually calmed my chatter. That serendipitous oasis reminded me how so many of us are addicted to chatter, how acclimated we've become to all the static, and the cacophony. So much technological trivia; such obsessive neediness to stay connected, afraid that we might miss out. The conversation in our heads is as old as life itself: all the secret fears and worries we harbor about ourselves, our loved ones, and our world. Those little demons poke at us, don't want to shut up.
The hard truth is that no one--no external power, no miraculous power--can mute this chatter for us or do the work of serenity and sacred attention. That task is ours' alone. The world has and will always spin right along, tempting us to grab the next shiny bauble or jump into the next conversation or respond to the next distraction. Life forever has just one more thing to do too. As you are reading this essay, chances are very good you are already thinking about what's next. Right?
The gift of faith in a higher power greater than ourselves, is that such spirituality, at its best, always calls us back to the quiet, to silence, and to rest from all the chatter, if just for a bit. This lack of chatter is not a luxury or something to do after we've accomplished everything else. To get to this spiritual center is essential for our humanity and our sanity. To get to the center is a divine reboot, a way to refresh our hearts and then remember that life is good. That we are good. That there may be nothing more beautiful than a cooing baby or a tender kiss or stars at night or a hot cup of coffee.
But for such clarity to happen, the chatter has to stop.
That happened for me in a CVS parking lot. Who'd have thought that? And you? Where will you know sanctuary from the chatter? Look for it. Find it. Then stay there, even if only just for awhile.