When speaking in Germany in 2006, Pope Benedict XVI addressed a growing crisis — one that was impacting Catholics as much as the rest of the world. He was referring to the problem of too much noise. The noise, he said, was preventing believers from hearing the voice of God.
“Put simply, we are no longer able hear God; there are too many different frequencies filling our ears.”
The pope emeritus probably isn’t aware of it, but he has an unlikely kindred spirit in an American country music star. Kenny Chesney makes his living off of music carried across the vast technological landscape, but if you listen to the lyrics of his latest hit single — appropriately entitled “Noise” — Chesney most likely would give a thumbs-up to Benedict’s concerns. Apparently, even an award-winning country singer needs a little quiet now and then.
“We didn’t turn it on but we can’t turn it off / Sometimes I wonder how did we get here / Seems like all we ever hear is noise.”
It might seem rather odd that a man who needs people to tune into the media in order to hear his songs is attempting to raise awareness about the noise, but Chesney says we all need to take a step back now and then and look at how we’ve allowed technology to dominate our lives. Chesney explains that’s why he wanted to record the single. In interviews about the new song, he said he sincerely is hoping his latest hit will get his fans to do more than just snap their fingers and tap their toes. He’s trying to get anyone who hears the song to stop and think about how addicted we’ve become to our gadgets that certainly are adding to the noise in the world.
“We have all these devices that have changed our way of thinking. Now we’re lost in this cloud of trying to communicate and multitasking,” Chesney said.
But are we finally beginning to listen (no pun intended), or even making an attempt to do a better job of taking control of the media that make our world and the world around us so very noisy? Not according to the latest research.
Young people are still consuming around 53 hours of media per week. Adults aren’t much better, as we spend about as much time with our tech toys as we do on the job — about 40 to 45 hours of media time per week. Chesney believes we’ve become accustomed to all the noise so much that we are drawn to it.
“I think a lot of what is drowning things out is just sensational stuff to get us hooked. It seems like we’re all drawn to chaos or a carnival that’s noise in itself.”
Anyone who has ever grown weary from all the clatter and chatter, the tweeting, the posting and texting can relate to the frustration expressed in “Noise.”
“Twenty-four hour television gets so loud that no one listens / Sex and money and politicians talk talk talk / But there really ain’t no conversation ... / Trapped in our phones and we can’t make it stop / Stop the noise.”
Chesney’s approach to the many issues connected to our media-saturated culture just might have an impact. It’s not likely that Americans who are seemingly forever attached to their iPhone or laptop would give a second thought to the latest study on media influence. Because of the very fact that they are attached at the hip to their favorite device or devices, there’s a good chance they’ll hear Chesney’s lyrics and maybe — just maybe — as he suggests, they’ll give some thought to stopping all the noise, even if it means only for a few minutes. One has to start somewhere.
Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 130.