Life: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. Macbeth, Act 5 scene 5
Noise. Chaos. Clamoring. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the sheer volume of life in our culture. Not necessarily volume heard by the ears, but volume that fills the heart and soul and body and mind, rushing and crashing like waves that never stop moving.
Today I opened my email, and it was filled with this noise. Book marketing emails, emails for bloggers, ads for merchandise, all clamoring for my time and attention. Email marketing is fine. I don’t hate it. But it’s been so well-honed, so researched, that it’s all the same, and zillions of businesses use it. It’s noise and chaos, and it’s hard to determine what’s worth my time to read.
The longing to be heard
After a long hiatus from Facebook, I’ve jumped back onto the platform a few times lately, and it’s amazing. Again with the noise and chaos. The same people are there saying the same things they were saying when I left a couple years ago. This is not to poke fun at anyone, because I do it, too. So many of us are on the hamster wheel of social media screaming to be noticed, to be heard over the noise, when we are simply joining the chaotic choir. In the screaming we don’t change or grow. We are trapped there, flies in amber, doing the same thing time and again and not getting anywhere.
Some days I close my computer and say no more. No more blogging or marketing books. No more ads or emails to find readers. I just want to sit in the quiet and let the rest go. I can’t keep up with the pace and the noise. But it’s almost required. We can’t completely escape it.
Shakespeare weighs in
Shakespeare, in Macbeth, wrote the famous line about life: It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. (Macbeth Act 5 Scene 5). In all fairness to Macbeth, he was in a very dark place when he said that. But wow, doesn’t that resonate with the culture we live in? Sound and fury. All of us want to be heard. We all want to be right. We don’t debate, we scream. We don’t accept others, we stuff them into the molds we want and discard them if they can’t fit. Sound and fury. And those who scream the loudest, who try to direct the noise? It’s harsh, but they fit as the idiot tellers of insignificant tales.
Do you remember Max Headroom? He was a digital character that showed up in TV ads, and then he was a short-lived TV show in 1987. In the show, TVs were everywhere, and they couldn’t be turned off. Media was pumped into all the spaces. This was convenient for Max, who was digital and leapt from screen to screen, but it was considered a problem for the rest of us. It was a dark view of a dark future.
Have you been to a store or restaurant lately and found screens overhead spilling their sound and fury at you? How about while you pump gas? So many voices have so much to say that even two seconds of silence are seen as a waste of good ad time. The dark future is here, and it’s loud.
Macbeth lamented that the sound and fury signified nothing. He was at a low point where he saw no benefits to life. I admit some days I feel the same. Where is culture headed? Honestly, I don’t think it’s heading anywhere I want to go. We are so involved in making noise that we don’t look around or ahead, and we haven’t thought about where we’re heading.
Turning to the quiet
Now, this is a Christian blog, of course, so I have some thoughts about all this. There was a time that I truly worried about the sound and the fury. I got scared when the ‘wrong people’ won elections. I looked ahead, didn’t like the path, and was afraid of the future.
But something changed. I struggle with anxiety, but it’s rarely that kind of fear. I have no doubt we’re on a bad path. I don’t know if there is hope for getting back on a good one in my lifetime, and if so, I think it will happen with violence. But so what? This isn’t my kingdom. This isn’t my home. Let them bluster. Let them tell their idiot tales, insignificant sound and fury. Yes, I may suffer. I may even die. But none of the chaos and the noise can keep God from hearing me, loving me, and pulling me free of this mess when the time comes.
A new favorite verse
Proverbs 21:30 is one of my new favorite verses, and it says this: There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.
Think about that. If you are drowning in the chaos and the noise, think about this. If you fear the future, let the words sink in.
There is no wisdom that can succeed against the Lord. Those who redefine everything to fit their agendas—they will never overturn the truths of God. Nothing masquerading as wisdom becomes wisdom. Only God’s true wisdom will last. All the rest will fall apart as the lies they are.
There is no insight that can succeed against the Lord. I think of those who would rewrite the Bible to fit what they want it to say, claiming God has given new insights that only make sense here in the 21st century. No, no human insight will knock God’s truths down. They were established before time, and they will remain past its end. All those others who clamor to speak new truths? Their lips will close, and their insights will go with them.
There is no plan that can succeed against the Lord. No plan. We know some have plans for evil in this world. We see it during elections. We see it at every place in society, in governments and business boardrooms. There are plans all over the place, plans based on greed or politics or control, and they will fail. All of them. The only plans that will ultimately succeed are those sanctioned by God.
I still see evil
Yes, evil gains ground. Israel got so bad God sent them into exile. But that was sanctioned by God. And whatever he has to do to pull us back from the edge—or if he lets us fall off and crash at the bottom—it’s not the world gone awry. His plans succeed. Plans opposed to his plans fail. It is that simple.
So fear isn’t required. Don’t let the noise and the chaos, the sound and the fury, make you think things have spiraled out of control. That’s not the case. This isn’t actually a tale told by an idiot that has no significance. It’s a patient rescue. God directs and prunes and shifts things to allow sin to look and be sinful so his glory and perfection will look more glorious and perfect. And then he rescues people from the waves and the crashing and brings them into a new place.
God speaks about stillness
And in this place? Well, here we can be still. Here we aren’t required to listen to the noise. The sound and the fury may swirl around us, but listen to what God says about his kingdom, his rescues, what he expects for his people:
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Ps. 37:7 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Ps. 46:10 He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. Ps. 107:29 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters… Ps. 23:2 The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever. Is. 32:17
We can be quiet. We can live peaceful lives without the need to join the chaotic sound and fury around us.
For me that means backing off social media. It means being careful who I allow into my email box and purging what isn’t necessary. It means guarding my schedule. I wasn’t meant to live life at breakneck speed. I have no tolerance for the sound and the fury.
Some do better than I do. Some are sent into the midst of it to fight in various ways. I respect and admire that. But it’s not where I was ever sent to go. I live on the edges and offer quiet respite to those who need to pull back. This site is one of those places. My fiction books are another place. Sure, the lives of my characters contain drama and adventure, but there is still simplicity to it—characters link up with a few friends, touch a few lives, and rarely sit for hours on their phones. The sound and the fury don’t play the role in my pages as they do in the life around me.
Life from the fringe
I prefer life in the present, life in person, small, quiet lives that ripple out and touch others in small, quiet ways. And I think the Bible says this is acceptable.
I love that the kingdom of God is not a place of sound and fury. Instead, he asks us to be still, to live quietly, to trust him for our battles and our needs. Luke 12 says God knows our needs, and we can focus on him and trust him to focus on our provision.
If this holiday season feels a little too much, drowning in sound and fury, feeling insignificant, take some time to step back. Read Christmas and Advent passages in your Bible. (If you’re reading this not at holiday time, read Psalms or the stories of Jesus, also good for quieting the sound and restoring perspective.) Spend quiet moments with friends. Rest. Refresh. Drink deeply of quiet waters as you step out of the storm.