In the Urgent Care waiting room with my child whose hurt toe had become a big problem, I become aware of a voice.
The waiting room is full with an eclectic crew of patients with various ailments and injuries. As we quietly wait, the TV blares.
It’s Monday morning during football season, and ESPN—in all its ESPNness—is doing its thing. The TV voice, all animated, reviews a recent game and hypes up for the next one. And I, a sort-of-not-too-much-interested-in-football type, become aware of my escalating agitation as the Voice overtakes our space with a mixture of high voltage predictions, hopes, allegiances and statistics.
Does the Voice—that pleads, shouts and proclaims—have something worth listening to? I considered this, but I quickly resolve that the Voice, and a few other voices that accompanied it, were simply filling a void—a before-the-game-space in the network’s line-up. And for me it was just a lot of noise.
But pre-game football commentary isn’t my jam, so I wonder if I’m being judge-y. I care about relationships. So let’s shift context to The Bachelorette—a series that I’ve admittedly relished in the past but haven’t consumed for a few seasons.
I imagine the Voice predicting the ways in which the show’s relationships may play out. “Will she choose them or them? Will they see through his antics? Will he be ready to handle that?” And as I imagine this, I’m curious, sure—perhaps eager with anticipation too. But does this effort of my imagining the possibilities of what they could or could not do actually move the needle in my life or theirs? I suspect not. Like, not at all.
Mostly, I think, because they’re not my relationships, just as the football team is not my team. I’m not in them in a first-person kind of way. They’re not even my friends’ relationships or teams. These players entertain and certainly stir emotions for the onlookers, but that’s very different than being an actual team member or the one in a budding relationship. Speculating as a voyeur feels like an adult version of make believe.
And to be clear, I’m not talking about the time spent engaging with the game itself—I love entertainment! Being a fan is some of the best stuff of life. I’m talking only about the spaces in-between the events—the transitions and waiting time when we’re not at the main event.
Why do we incessantly fill those in-between spaces with so much noise? Noise of criticism, analysis, predictions, suppositions, assumptions and gossip. Fred Rogers once said: “Our society is much more interested in information than wonder, in noise rather than silence…And I feel that we need a lot more wonder and a lot more silence in our lives.” Mr. Rogers is onto something.
What would it feel like if the spaces in-between were reserved for quiet and wonder? What if we, more regularly, activated our curiosity and turned toward our own personal lives? What if we lived in a state of wonder about our selves, our relationships, our neighbors, our communities, and our environments? Or, what if we simply gave ourselves permission to settle into the quiet, to just…be?
I get that ESPN has a job to fill all the network space…it’s a big ‘ole puzzle, and they’re doing the jobs they were hired to do. And with respect to some events, we might want to tune in to the banter about it. But we, the consumers, always have a choice. We can let the TV play mindlessly and the outside voices can hijack our silence and opportunities to wonder. Or, alternatively, we can opt to turn down the cacophony.
We can choose, with intention, to allow the transitional spaces that live in-between our appointments, plans, responsibilities and main events to become moments when we give ourselves permission to quiet the mind, listen to ourselves, or simply be.
Written by: Lindsay Hurty