I want you to try something with me—right here, right now. Take a deep breath in, let it out slowly, and listen: what do you hear?
In all the stress, hubbub, and chaos of ordinary life, it’s easy to miss out on just how much noise we never quite find the time to hear. And there’s a lot of noise that I love: from raucous music to loud laughter and the clink and chatter of a great dinner party, I love the noise of a good time. And there’s the roar of the dragon, the cry of the hero, the noise of someone standing up for something noble and true.
But then there’s a different kind of noise—the internal noise, the little voice in my head whispering to me right now, telling me to set aside this letter, that I can get back to it later, that there’s plenty of interesting things to listen to before I need to finish writing. There’s the noise of anger, not the anger of the hero who demands the world become a better place but the petulant anger, the one that is upset things didn’t magically work out the first time. And then there’s just noise: the countless tiny irrelevant details, notices, and opinions constantly passing us by like ships in the night, taking our attention without giving anything in return…
Noise is a fundamental element of life. It’s necessary to every great endeavor. But I think it’s not all that’s necessary. It’s why, years ago, I had to draw a line in the sand, and write these words on a plaque in my study: “The World is Quiet Here.” It’s a phrase from a longer quote by Lemony Snicket, one that I look at every morning, if only for an instant. It goes something like this:
“If you feel… that a world full of people sitting quietly with good books in their hands is preferable to a world filled with schisms and sirens and other noisy and troublesome things, then every time you enter a library you might say to yourself, “the world is quiet here” as a sort of pledge proclaiming reading to be the greater good.”
Now if every hero I knew spent their entire life sitting around libraries doing nothing except reading, I think the world would be a worse place. Noise is an inevitable part of all great enterprises. But I think that version of reality is far rarer than the alternative: people who, like I have so often done, getting caught up in all the noise, feeling they can’t set it down for an instant, trying to find some way to categorize and hear it all, to sort through all of it…
Instead, even if right now is the only moment, while reading this letter, take a deep breath in, and tell yourself: the world is quiet here. Soon you will have to act, speak, and choose, soon you will be listening to and contributing to the noise of the world. But for now—in the still moment of reading and reflection, wherever this note finds you, you have made a small slice of the world a little calmer. And you might say to yourself, the world is quiet here. And mean it as some kind of pledge, a moment of balance and truth, of finding control in a chaotic world—even just for one quiet second.
May the road rise up to meet you!