Once upon a time there was a man who was alive.

Location: Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States
St. Cuthbert and Disciples in a Boat



The disposition toward Noisiness can be broken down into three levels, just as I’ve seen Gluttony broken down into eating more than we need (something all people tend to do), eating to satiation (something overweight people do), and eating far past satiation (something obese people do).

First, there’s the tendency that afflicts all of us: The tendency to fill the heart and mind with a stream of self-occupied thoughts and imaginations. Inner chatter. Often applauded by pop culture (“daydreaming,” “lost in our thoughts”), it’s rarely recognized for what it really is: A state of mental existence where we are incessantly accosted by an involuntary stream of thoughts. Wise men have repeatedly pointed out for thousands of years that these thoughts and dream are not “ours.” Unless we undertake great effort, we have little or no control over them—virtually no ability to stop them and only a little ability to direct them. Even if we initially invite or direct them, they eventually take their own course.

This tendency of inner chatter to go where it wants leads to the second stage of Noisiness: Loud inner chatter. The stream, if not checked, eventually grows into a rushing river of chatter, characterized by things like extravagant dreaming (visions of vast earthly wealth or fame), cruel or violent thoughts, and lustful imaginations.

The rest at the New Pantagruel: The Eight Capital Sin.

I struggle with inner and outer noisiness mightily. I carry it over into my internet use: at any given moment I usually have at least three or four browsers open, reading bits and pieces at a time, because I need to be constantly occupied with Stuff while I wait for something to load (I have dial-up, poor me). I go to bed thinking about what I'm going to do tomorrow, or next week, or a year from now. Of course, the funny thing is I quite frequently don't do the thing I was thinking about anyway. And then there is my tendency to go over details of conversations I might have, deciding what I need to say to so-and-so, which is also nonsense. And then there are various other thoughts that do not actually contribute to any action or constructive thinking. Instead they are the mental equivalent of junk-food.

Of course, none of this is explicitly sinful (if that's an acceptable theological term), but they conglomerate and clog up my mind, diverting it from the remembrance of God. Instead of a sober mind, I have an ever so slightly intoxicated one. And because I give no heed to my thoughts and let them stream through in noisy static, I am less prone to catch any markedly evil ones that slip in with the static stream. The Fathers- particularly those of the Philokalia- speak much of the opposite of this condition: watchfulness. 'Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.' (Prov. 4:23) Rather than allow the constant murmur and noise of our thoughts, we should closely watch what comes in, and reject whatever is evil or simply unprofitable static. 'But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.' (St. Luke 21:34) This nasty triad of things can be repulsed through watchfulness, through the practise of inner quiet and peace. This is achieved through paying attention to ones thoughts and invoking Christ against the evil and useless ones. The thoughts, the heart must be turned from self-love- for it is in that 'mother of the passions' as St. Maximus said that sin and passion originate- and out to God and thus to others. Our hearts cease to fill with empty- but comfortable and pleasing!- chatter and wicked thoughts, and are instead turned towards God.


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