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Earplugs are a really great invention.
They're really not an option in modern industrial society. If you work in or around machines, you need to be wearing them. To not use earplugs will cause sensory damage.
We call this damage tinnitus - a constant ringing in the ears.
Normally I only put earplugs in if I'm working around something noisy - saws, grinders, mowers, and the like. But yesterday, I put in earplugs while just being in my house. It smacked me in the face again: a reality I don't want to be aware of.
I have tinnitus.
This isn't the first time I've realized this. Sometimes when I'm hiking the woods are quiet enough to make this apparent. Sometimes I step outside from the shop with my earplugs still on. I shouldn't be surprised with my decades of working around equipment. But man, it's just hitting me hard that I have this constant ring that I'm accustomed to. But the scary thing is to step back and remember that the material world is linked with the spiritual realm.
I have spiritual tinnitus.
The problem with tinnitus is it makes it hard to hear. Things have to step above the baseline threshold. Have I poisoned my soul with so much noise that hearing His voice in my life is more difficult now? That I am accustomed to - and create my own - spiritual noise?
When things get noisy, I'm going to put in my earplugs. It's easy to hear noise and run from it; to change course. But what we need to do in the spiritual life is to continue onward in courage. As St. Ignatius of Loyola says,
"In time of desolation never make a change, but be firm and constant in the proposals and determination in which one was the day preceding such desolation."
Earplugs make forging through easier, even though they force us to face our own tinnitus. Although this baseline hum we may have poisoned our souls with is irritating, to continue without earplugs will only make things worse. Cut the noise. Put on some site blockers. Switch to a flip-phone. There are many physical things we can do to make ourselves more attentive to the needs and yearnings of the soul rather than the distractions of the world around us.
In times of noise, put in your earplugs.