Chatter And Noise – Towards A Still Mind

Chatter of the news and the noise of the crowd is filling you past the point of full.

Ryan Holiday’s summary chapter about the Mind in his book Stillness Is The Key starts with a paragraph re-stating the issue before he moves onto the next topic, of why it’s so hard getting to stillness. Those two items, a constant news and a perpetual noise, are major contributing factors robbing us entry into stillness.

I keep saying something along the lines how I wish I had people in my life to talk to directly about this topic of elusive stillness in an increasingly digital world. I feel this way when the wheels start turning in my head about this topic because, well, Ryan Holiday is writing and talking about it. Cal Newport is too. And John Mark Comer.

And many many others.

I’m not alone in observing the noise of the crowd are the social media mediums.

And I am not alone in observing the chatter of the news is just that, chatter without deep substance of understanding, vetting, or regard for clarity for the masses.

This first paragraph of Ryan’s conclusion on the mind sent my mind into…..focus.

It’s when he then speaks of the buried insights. The reward beyond the problem of the chatter and the noise. The only way to get to the buried insights is to not dig at them like a conspiracy theorist looking to connect things that are not even there. No, it is the task of clearing out the noise just to reach the things already present.

They’re just buried under the social media pings, opinions flying unchecked, and the rising noise of our age.

I can’t help but connect this a step further to Comer’s recent book as he attributes a rise in noise (let’s call it distraction from mindfulness) to the Devil himself. Chiefly because it is the Devil’s best interest to get us unfocused, distracted from the pursuit of truth, to be in a constant state of frenetic pace.

Even if you are one that removes spirituality from this or doesn’t have a specific religious view on the matter, a point still stands where we know there is an intentional distraction or misleading of breaking news, coupled with unchecked opinions from bloggers and social media posts. We know it and subscribe to it as a sort of disclaimer.

But we perpetually feed ourselves with these mediums instead of doing the more chore like tasks of finding what peer reviewed journals, books, scientific magazines, and/or experts in niche subject matters have to say.

My point here is self awareness plays a large role here as we evaluate our ability to enter into a stillness in order to produce our best and not to avoid responsibility.

There is some analogy that escapes me right now, but it involves getting wildly excited and sober minded as the results come in from a test you are conducting in a lab, and the results demonstrate you are one that suffers acutely from what it is you are discovering.

I sense this is the reason people really find a passion in solving something, finding what is buried underneath the chatter and noise. It is because there is a disease of sorts and you are relentless in finding a solution to it because as you research more and more, you find how it affects you greatly.

Because yes, I seek the stillness Ryan describes in the book because I find it completely worthy of a task to continue ridding myself of the chatter and noise in exchange for the buried treasure below its surface.

Too Much Found His Mind

Most of my waking hours I am speechless, and I know some friends of mine won’t understand what I just wrote there. But most of the time I’m not saying much.

Or just saying surface level canned statements. You know:

The weather is bad,

Wow was the traffic a mess today,

How ’bout them Cowboys?

However, much closer to the forefront of my mind are deep analytical, historical, emotional and socio-political ramifications of you asking me “so how’s it going?”

How’s it going?! Well, considering both of us just heard a little about maintaining good personal finances, here are my thoughts on the history of the Christian Monastic Community and the distribution of possessions, successful and failed attempts at communal living, and the complete horror of the pervasiveness of the American Dream within our culture.

That’s what I want to respond to “how’s it going.”

Because I mean let’s just get frank and cut the small talk.


In mewithoutYou’s song Bethlehem, WV there is a line right in the beginning which caught my attention and gave me pause of everything I was probably thinking about at the time:

A stranger’s face appeared—
They say he lost his mind
(Or too much found his mind?)
I hear it all the time

Too much found his mind? 

I immediately resonated and searched the lyrics to see if others caught it. Sure enough, too much found his mind proved too good a line to go unnoticed. It reminds one person of Nietszche’s madman metaphor.  To someone else, a possible reference of John The Baptist.

The metaphor of Nietzche’s Madman is about someone who is deeply perceiving a lot, too much, or perhaps all which needs to be perceived, in contrast to the masses asleep at their own wheels. I sense it is more about the person making connections with all which is finding their mind.

It speaks to a kind of ‘awareness’ of things. Awareness provides the opportunity to make pathways between seemingly unrelated items, a connection process of information more than a lack of perception of said items in isolation.

For example, John The Baptist was witness to the same information as anyone else of his time: socio-political movements, imperial occupations, and sacred scriptural promises of a coming liberating savior who will tidy everything up when the time is right. It’s just while others are giving their attention to individual portions, only a few pieces, or woefully unaware of anything not involving only themselves, John was preaching the way he was preaching because he was putting a few pieces together.

When I am looking to add to a conversation I often find myself wanting to take someone straight to the implications of what we are really talking about. How does this connect to events of the past? In what ways is our discussion more about selfish ambition versus growing yourself and challenging your own thoughts? How did you feel when that happened or this news came to you?


I began sharing a little more here and there to others in the above manner. Instead of maintaining surface level, I’d go where I am residing presently. Speaking directly of the things which I was constantly connecting and what I found worthy of actually sharing.

As if I had forgot or discredited what my grade school teachers would always say of me, a few individuals paused me in recent years because they saw the 10,000 foot view of what I was doing. In the middle of conversation they would say “wait, you’re reading all these books right now and connecting what’s in them?” Or “not everyone is still enough in a moment to capture the thought you’re expressing.”

These were long lost encouragements I had stuffed away or discarded entirely a long time ago. I was hearing them afresh from encouraging people.


Perhaps I was sharing more readily again because two things finally started kicking in.

One was leaning completely into what happens to me within certain environments. So much finds my mind just sitting at a coffee shop, looking out at the sunny day outside, wondering about the old man in the corner of the shop and his long contemplative look. I guess at his hopes and dreams, the life he has lived, and the regrets he has faced head on or is still running from. The next thing I know I have jotted down some lines of poetry without anticipation. Poetry helps condense volumes of things finding my mind into digestible portions. And it comes when I am surprisingly at rest.

The other helpful practice for me is discerning what continually rests on my mind. Daily journal practices of writing anything and everything that comes to mind is an excellent sifting exercise. Once on paper or on computer screen, we see what is taking up unneeded space.

We don’t ask for some of the things which find their way to our minds, but we can do a fantastic job of filtering down what matters most.

Too much on our minds can be made into a blessing.