All About The Grace –Perspectives on Faith, Culture & Media Savvy
Do you remember the “Cone of Silence”? Think Nickelodeon TV, MeTV, or if you are old enough, perhaps you recall it from your after-school television viewing. If you are not familiar with it, the “Cone of Silence” is a device used by good guy Control agents from one of my favorite 1960’s television comedy spy shows called Get Smart. The main characters, the Chief and Maxwell Smart, also known as Agent 86, attempt to have “top secret” conversations inside a plastic double dome that appears from the ceiling at the press of a button. The scenes where this “silent” chamber is used for private conversations results in exaggerated speaking and listening. It’s hysterical. You see, the gadget rarely works as designed rendering the characters virtually mute to each other. Subsequently, it requires shouting so they can be heard. This exercise hardly accomplishes the desired goal of a “top secret” conversation, to prevent the bad guy organization, known as Kaos, from getting wind of their plan.
Over the years, my family has taken in our fair share of Get Smart episodes on YouTube or MeTV. We have a visual of the Cone, and reference it often. When our daily life gets hectic and noisy, a frequent occurrence, or when an actual conversation between two persons is warranted, one of us will suggest, “What we need now is the ‘Cone of Silence.’” The suggestion always gets a good chuckle.
Yet, the family joke for the “Cone of Silence” drives home the point of our personal need for silence in our lives to hear one another, and more importantly to connect with God. We must be able to hear God so we can actually know how He want us to follow Him in our daily lives.
Secretly, I’ve always wanted my own “Cone of Silence”. You know, the real deal. Where at the push of a button, the Cone mysterious descends from the ceiling and whoula, silence!! Okay, a confession here, I kind of, at least mentally, do have one. (Ssshhh.) When I enter into prayer, I mentally press that button, the plastic domes come down, and I can talk to God one-on-one, uninterrupted. Visually, God is in one dome, and I in the other. Yet, unlike the television version, my “Cone of Silence” works, most of the time. God can hear me, and I can hear him, well sometimes.
Okay, let me be honest here. My prayer life can be a lot like the television version. I admit, there are times I sit there, at least internally, using exaggerated listening gestures, or with a vague expression on my face. I put my hand up to my ear saying, “What did you say?” or “I can’t hear you,” or simply saying, “What?”, with a confused look on my face. “Can you repeat that?” Or I repeat something very different from what perhaps God was trying to say to me in the first place. Okay, and yes, sometimes there’s shouting, internally. Thank goodness, the “shouting” is internal because it’s usually early morning when the button gets pressed. Otherwise, I’d wake the whole household, thus nullifying the full-effect of the “Cone of Silence.”
Besides first thing in the morning, I need to press the Cone button other times during my day. As a freelance writer, I do a fair amount of my work from home which is a tremendous blessing. Then there’s the less glamorous side. I can sum it up in this way–kids, dogs, and computer problems!! For example, I need the Cone following an interview with a state lawmakers where I had to listen very intently because my three tween-teen age children felt the “need” to “need” me simultaneously while my two black labs start barking incessantly in the background. I say, “I apologize for the noise Senator so-in-so. There is a lot of office chatter today, and guy in the next cubicle has a cough which surprisingly sounds exactly like a dog’s bark.” Ahhhhhh!!
Then there’s my IT issues—a.k.a. computer problems. One disadvantage of working from home is I’m lacking a full-time, on-call IT staff when my computer goes awry. (I had that when I worked on the State Senate press staff, and I LOVED it.) But now, there’s nothing like being on deadline for a news story, and the internet goes out and I’m not sure if it’s a.) my lap top driver failure, b.) the motum, c.) a router problem, or d.) operator error. My husband, Tom, who doubles as my on-call, IT guy, loves getting those frantic calls with a question of how he can help me fix my urgent computer glitch.
When his suggestions don’t pan out, and the deadline nears, I press the button for the Cone and say “Lord, you either need to fix this yourself, (Okay, You created the universe, this little computer thing should be a snap); help me figure it out; or send Joseph, my 14-year old computer wizard of a son, home from school early.” While I may not get an immediate response, or solution to the problem, the Cone really does help calm me down, and allow me to reassess what is important. Somehow, God’s peace descends on me along with the Cone. I sense a notion of ..”Be Still, and know that I am God….” Really, I say to myself after spending a few minutes in the Cone with God, “What’s the worst thing that can happen? And is this going to matter a day or week from now?” I realize, probably not.
I use my Cone also when there is no immediate crisis at all, but rather the opposite. When I feel like the daily grind of reliving the same day over and over becomes monotonous. I wonder if all the laundry, cooking, child-wrangling, family prayer, taxi-driving, homework help and yes, writing really makes a difference. I lower the Cone and ask God if any of it matters. Am I doing the right thing? Am I making a difference? What’s the meaning and purpose of it all?
God does have a sense of humor, or at least I feel He does with me. And I certainly do with Him. Hence, the “Cone of Silence” prayer life seems to work for us. At least I’m there mentally, daily pressing the button to lower the “Cone of Silence” (and many times throughout the day, as in, help!) He’s there inside the other dome listening, speaking. We are there together having a conversation. Sometimes I can hear. Sometimes I’m shouting. Sometimes, God seems to have the mute button on because I can’t hear him. And certainly, I feel like I’m muted sometimes too, and I wonder if He’s really over there in the other dome, actually listening.
He is. With the eyes of faith, I press the button. I show up, and believe He’s there. And we “talk.” Isn’t that what God really wants? He wants us to, at the very least, show up?
So, if you’d like, I’d be happy to let you “borrow” my “Cone of Silence” anytime. Give it a whirl, and let me know how it works for you. And hey, if you have any tips on how to work out the “technical difficulty” kinks, please do share them with me. I’d love to know!!
Brigid Curtis Ayer serves as the Statehouse Correspondent for the Indiana Catholic Conference covering legislative and public policy news. Ayer covers the Carmel Deanery as a correspondent for The Catholic Moment, diocesan newspaper for diocese of Lafaytette-in-Indiana. Happily married to her husband, Tom, for 18 years, Ayer has three children, two black labs, and resides in Indiana. Ayer Blogs at www.allaboutthegrace.com