The Sound of Silence

Austin Ashcraft July 30, 2022

“No one dare disturb the sound of silence…” — Paul Simon

We live in the noisiest culture in human history.  And this noise isn’t limited to just audible noise: 

It’s a total sensory overload.  

On a typical day, our five senses have little to no silence, hardly ever getting a break from constant stimulation, distraction, mindless entertainment and scrolling.

And whether we like to admit it or not, we are addicted, and we crave more and more.  Yet I think something within us knows that it’s inhuman. 

The noise is eating away at us, but we don’t know what to do because we can’t stand the thought of silence. Too hard, too boring, too painful.

In the face of such constant noise, how can we relax, rest, refresh or heal our weary minds?  Have meaningful relationships? Think deeply or pray? 

We can’t.

Yet, I think this is yet another way in which Camp offers us something different.  

It offers us the chance to take a break from the noise — both the audible and inaudible noise of daily life — and reconnect with ourselves, with nature, with each other, and with God. 

I think one of the greatest gifts we give our campers and our staff is freedom from their phones, from the constant scrolling and constant addict’s itch of always having to check our phones for some type of stimulation or connection.  

And instead, they get to experience the freedom of connecting with each other, being stimulated by real conversations with the people around them and by the beauty of the nature around them. 

Last night I chatted around the campfire with some of the CITs on their campout about this very topic for a couple hours. 

They initiated the conversation, saying how much they hate being addicted to their phones but how they don’t know what to do or how to change. 

They want to be free from the constant noise, but everybody else around them seems always to be pulling them back into being plugged into life on their phones. 

They want to be able to be more free and more full themselves like they feel they can be here at camp with each other, but they don’t know how to navigate that in their lives back home.

It was a powerful and thought provoking conversation, and they shared some profound insights.

I was especially grateful to be talking about these things with them around a campfire in Linville Gorge. Linville Gorge is one of my favorite wilderness areas in western North Carolina — they call it “the Grand Canyon of the East!” 

This morning, we all woke up early to catch the sunrise over the east side of the ridge. The view that we stumbled upon was absolutely breathtaking. 

It’s become a custom of mine whenever I’m watching a sunset or sunrise with a group of people to invite everybody into a couple minutes of silence as the sun is rising or setting.  

So, I challenged these guys to be completely still, silent inside and out, and just take it all in.  

We sat in silence for about two minutes as the sun scorched the sky pink, orange, and purple.  It wasn’t an absent silence, but a full silence.  

It was profound. 

I had a sense that we could all feel it — the power of the silence, the raw untamed beauty of the stunning sunrise. The bigness of it all. 

After a couple minutes of silence, I asked the guys what they heard in the silence.  Without hesitation, one of them piped up: “I heard beauty.” 

I don’t think he was trying to be profound, I think it’s just the only thing he could say.  What a powerful image: to hear beauty. 

It felt like that moment offered the answer to all of the questions from the previous night around the campfire of how to fight against the constant noise we find ourselves in. 

That’s something that only a moment of silence can offer.  That’s something that only a moment together at camp can offer. And oh how we all need it!

I encourage you wherever you are today — take a deep breath, step outside away from some screens, be completely still, and enjoy a couple minutes of silence. 

You might be surprised at what you hear!

Austin Ashcraft

Camp Director

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