C.S. Lewis—Evil Loves Noise

In 1942, C.S. Lewis suggested that noise and clamor serve Evil.

Music and silence—how I detest them both! How thankful we should be that ever since our Father entered Hell—though longer ago than humans, reckoning in light years, could express—no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of these abominable forces, but all has been occupied by Noise—Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless and virile—Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples, and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end. We have already made great strides in this direction as regards the Earth. The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end. But I admit we are not yet loud enough, or anything like it. Research is in progress.—C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters: Revised Edition, Macmillian, 102-03 (1982)(emphasis added).

Today, many recognize that Lewis’ insight applies even more profoundly. Loud diesel trucks, un-muffled cars, deafening motorcycles, ATVs ripping through natural areas, useless leaf blowers shrieking, throbbing boom cars, thudding basketballs, music blaring in parks, libraries turned into raucous entertainment centers, movies with audio so loud it shakes the building, smartphones streaming “content” everywhere (earphones no longer trendy, apparently), loud cell phone conversations in grocery store lines, televisions in restaurants drowning conversation—”We [,Evil,] will make the whole universe a noise in the end.” Perhaps we’re close.

One ponders how C.S. Lewis would view the world of today. One anonymous author poses an answer in The Kingdom of Noise: A Screwtape Letter for the 21st Century. In Screwtape style, the author observes:

Good news! The latest commendations have arrived from the Council of the Pit. … They have heard of your proposals to the Noise Proliferation Committee (NPC). Indeed, places of solitude and moments of silence grow ever more scarce in the Enemy’s vast and vulgar dominion. Oh, what euphoria to see his insufferable creatures constantly multi-tasking, rushing to fill the dead air with  a cacophony of cell phones and muzak, leaf blowers and motorcycles, 24-hour news and ipods—not to mention car stereos cracked up to full blast and serenading the city-scape with the hellish sounds of hip-hop and heavy metal…Remember: our greatest ally is constant and pervasive stimulation.

C.S. Lewis understood that NOISE interferes with our ability to hear “that still small voice” of God. See 1 Kings 19:11-13. Perhaps our increasing challenge to resist NOISE and distraction corresponds with our challenge to remain Faithful—to retain our “saltiness.” C.f. Matthew 5:13; Mark 9:50; Luke 14:34.