What’s the most comforting sound you can imagine?
The sound of waves crashing on the shore? The crackle of a campfire? Rain on a window?
Whatever your answer, I’ll bet yours is different from mine. But here’s what those sounds all have in common: they can stir up powerful emotions very, very quickly.
Seth Horowitz is an auditory neuroscientist at Brown University. I’m not exactly sure what that means, but it sure sounds smart. In an NPR interview from awhile back, he rather graphically makes his point (you’ll get no spoilers from me) that for the hearing, our sense of sound drives our emotions. It immediately grabs our attention. He says:
“Everything you hear has some kind of an impact on you and changes how you respond to the rest of the world.”
Hmm. (That was the sound of me thinking.)
These days, the sounds in our world are mostly loud and angry and anything but comforting. Disconcerting? Scary? Infuriating? Exhausting? Discouraging?
A quick Google search tells me that experts estimate the percentage of negative news to positive news on TV, on the radio, in social media is 9-to-1. So 90% of our news is negative.
If Mr. Smarty Professor is right, this kind of noise is changing how we respond to the world. It’s changing our attitude. When our auditory senses are bombarded with this type of noise, it leaks into the rest of our lives. Short tempers. Lack of patience. Even fear and hopelessness can begin to seep in.
But we who follow Jesus and broker in things such as hope had best be listening for other sounds in the noise. Because if we don’t, we might end up responding to the rest of the world like the rest of the world.
So, if it’s true that the sounds we are surrounding ourselves with are impacting our emotions and our attitude, well then, we should pay attention to that.
We should change the types of sounds we’re letting in. Maybe we should pay less attention to noise and more attention to the soundtrack our God is orchestrating around us.
Because sound is a gift from God. In fact, in Psalm 96:11-12 the Psalmist writes:
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
The earth is singing out in worship around us.
And we’re missing it.
And that is changing our attitude.
In this still dark and very noisy world, let’s commit to paying attention to these other sounds—the buzz of the wind through the trees, the whirl of an air conditioner, the creak of floorboards under our feet, or the trio of frogs singing out in the night. This type of intentional listening can become a form of worship.
And it will change our outlook.
Try one of these this week:
- Turn off the radio and roll down the window instead.
- Leave your earbuds at home.
- Cook or run or work or enjoy your morning coffee in silence.
And allow the symphony of sounds directed by the God Almighty to change your outlook.
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.