Suffering: Whispers in the Noise

Suffering: Whispers in the Noise

by Renee Long September 07, 2017 1 Comment

We’re hurting. So many people in so many places are hurting.

I have this device in my hand, glowing blue. It updates me every minute, every second, and tells me: People are suffering. People are upset because people are suffering. More people are suffering.

I sometimes feel like I’m in a closet with boulder-sized speakers blaring white noise. And under that white noise is a soft, quiet whisper—Help me—through the crackle. But my ears are blown out, and my head feels like a grape crushed under foot. I’m incapacitated.

I’m in no condition to listen to the soft whisper, let alone help.

This is how I feel about the news and social media in 2017. In all of this, what the hell difference can I make?

I post on social media: My thoughts are with the hurting.

I donate to charities and causes I trust.

I post on social media: I’m praying.

But all of us posting, I’m praying… what are these prayers? What are these prayers to the hurting, the drowning, the oppressed, the beaten, the wronged, the burning, the lonely? The suffering. The dead.

Sometimes I’m not praying as much as worrying, as questioning, as borderline—dare I write it?—despairing.

Oh, God. How could you?

Oh, God. I thought we were done with this chapter.

Oh, God. Where are we going?

It hurts. I’m alone in the closet with the colossal speakers blaring. I'm losing my hearing to the thick, hissing snow sound. Help me. Help me. Help me. Soft. Inaudible under the white blaze.

More news. More Twitter. More Facebook. More hashtags.

Scroll. Scroll. Scroll.

More footage. More clipped, out of context stories of suffering. Puppies. Kittens. Babies. Proposals. Suffering.

Have my prayers helped?

Action is another matter. As an introvert, it’s challenging for me to get outside and volunteer. I’ve found it easiest to volunteer with kids. They usually speak first. They ask you real questions. They cut to the quick and typically expect you to do the same. They’ll ask you, Why don’t you wear makeup? and hug you fiercely in the same moment. Even though tiny humans are slightly less scary than adult ones, I’ve stepped away from volunteering and activism altogether. Not intentionally. It’s more like when you stop going to the gym or calling that old college friend. The slow fade-out.

But all this noise—sitting in it, scrolling through it—it nibbles at the soul.

Do you feel it? The ache? The migraine of the two-hour news cycle? Flooding in the grief? I do. And today, I stop letting it paralyze me.

I recently read a piece of advice (a tweet, ironically enough, from some inspirational, career-driven figure on social media—the Tim Feriss type[1], ya know?) that went along these lines:

Delete your social media. Delete your news app. Turn off your TV. Cancel your Netflix, HBO, Hulu. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

I agree. These things are distractions, for the most part. The constant barrage from the digital world cuts into our productivity. It paralyzes us if we let it. I can go down the rabbit hole of Instagram stories at 8 p.m. and not re-surface until midnight. Then cue another two hours trying to fall asleep. It’s an addictive cycle.

And here’s the issue: how do we unplug, tend to our self-care, but not stick our heads in the sand?

This is what I am wrestling with lately: how to turn down the noise and truly listen to the calls for help. Listen and hear and believe and act.

Yes, I’ll delete the apps that distract me. I’ll pause before posting the “I’m praying” status. But I’ll tell you what I am praying for. I’ll tell you how my prayer life has shifted in the wake of this strange year and these strange, terrible events.

I’m praying for the hurting, yes. I’m praying for the recovery and grace and light to flood where water and fire and pain and evil have raged. But I’m also praying to use my body and my voice better, for my feet to carry me where I can help.

Last week, my pastor spoke on praying for belief to be transformed into being—for our morals and values and deepest beliefs to be manifested in our flesh, on our lips, in our every moment on earth. This is how I am praying in these times. I’m praying that God will turn my sorrow and empathy and hurt for the suffering into movement—that my belief will be transformed into being, and being into action, and action into change.

It’s time to put down the glowing blue screen and walk.


[1] I have nothing against Tim Ferriss. He’s fabulous. The quote was from someone who fits that career/self-help archetype. I can’t remember who it was, but if you know, shout it out in the comments!

Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

Renee Long
Renee Long


Renee Long is a writer, editor, (sometimes) teacher, and novice scuba diver living in San Diego, CA. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing Fiction from Florida Atlantic University. Her work has been published in Crazyhorse, The Cossack Review, Rock and Sling, and Tiger’s Eye: A Journal of Poetry. She blogs in the second person at

1 Response


September 07, 2017

Thank you for these words, Renee.

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