The power of silence in a noisy world
by Claire Law
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
Reflects on the benefits of silence and stillness.
Preparation and materials
You will need the PowerPoint slides accompanying this assembly (Shhhhhh!) and the means to display them during the assembly.
Have available the song ‘The sound of silence’ by Simon and Garfunkel and the means to play it at the start of the assembly. You may like to play it at the end of the assembly, too.
- Play the song ‘The sound of silence’ as the students enter the room.
- Wait for the song to end.
Let us now just listen in silence for 30 seconds and then we will share any sounds that you have heard.
Listen to a range of responses. These could include traffic noise outside, the sound of other students in a different part of the building, the hum of the lights, someone in the room coughing or shuffling, rustling, the sound of breathing or even a tummy rumbling!
- We live in a noisy world. It is rare to find time, even for 30 seconds, to stop and listen to the sounds around us. Much of the background noise we hear is unavoidable - traffic noise, the sounds of others chatting, shouting and laughing, the school bell ringing to mark the start and end of lessons - but there are some noises we voluntarily tune in to, such as music, TV and talking. This can be enjoyable and enrich our lives. Most of us enjoy listening to music, for example, and many people love to attend sporting events, such as football matches where the cheering and ear-deafening chants of the supporters enhance the atmosphere!
- Is there also a place for silence and stillness in our noisy world?
- Germany is a country where there is an awareness of the importance of silence and quiet.
In 1907, the first modern earplug was developed by a German pharmacist called Max Negwer. He called his new invention Ohropax, combining the German word for ‘ear’ and the Latin word for ‘peace’.
In the same year, an ‘anti-noise’ society was set up in Hanover. The founder of this society - Theodore Lessing - made the statement that ‘silence is noble’.
- Today, in Berlin - the capital of Germany - loud noise is strictly forbidden after 22.00 and, on Sundays, Ruhezeit , or ‘quiet time’, starts earlier, at 20.00. Shops close their shutters, trucks are banned and power tools used for gardening and so on cannot be used after this time. Many visitors to Germany have noted how even the children’s play areas seem quieter than in other parts of the world.
- The German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) wrote, ‘Talent develops in quiet places’.
Show PowerPoint slide 1.
- There is evidence that silence in the classroom can actually improve students' performance. A study in 2011 by Dr Helen Lees, from Stirling University, strongly suggested that ‘deliberate stillness’, where students had the opportunity to focus and reflect in a stress-free environment, had a significant positive effect on concentration and behaviour.
- How could we find spaces and opportunities for silence and quietness here in school or even in our towns? Do you think such times are important?
- Evidence suggests that silence is beneficial to health. Noise, especially greater than 30 decibels, is associated with high blood pressure, anxiety and stress. In fact, the word ‘noise’ comes from a Latin root meaning either nausea or pain. Silence lowers blood pressure and allows people to deal with life’s challenges in a better way. It also allows you to take a moment to centre yourself and stop in the midst of frantic activity. Silence can help all of us to feel human again.
- Jesus also knew that silence, stillness and solitude - time alone, away from distractions - was good. The Bible speaks about times when he withdrew to ‘lonely places’, such as in Luke 5.16 (NIV):‘But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.'
Show PowerPoint slide 2.
So Jesus chose to seek out places of silence and stillness from time to time. Maybe if smartphones had been invented 2000 years ago, Jesus would have switched it off sometimes when he sought a place of stillness and silence!
Time for reflection
Let us pause and reflect on the following questions.
Show PowerPoint slide 3.
When do you have space to stop and be still and quiet in your daily routine? What is it that you need to stop doing to find opportunities for quiet stillness and peace?
Can you call to mind a particular location that will be a helpful quiet place for you?
We thank you for the gift of sound - the wonderful noise of friends laughing together, the joy we feel when we hear our favourite music and the excitement of cheering on our sports teams.
Please help us to recognize and respond to the example Jesus gave us.
Help us to seek out quiet places of stillness and calm.
Please give us the wisdom to recognize where and when to look for quiet moments.
We take a moment now to be still and silent before you.
‘The sound of silence’ by Simon and Garfunkel