It is his self-appointed duty of to remind us that our unruly behavior is interfering with their needs and we hear, “Let’s have some peace and quiet,” or, “LET’S HAVE SOME PEACE AND QUIET!! STOP BEING ROWDY!!” Generally the latter gets our attention.
Actually, we hadn’t been rowdy at all. We weren’t old enough, coarse enough or rough enough to be starting a drunken fight called a “row” (rhymes with how) in some dark place called a “dive.” What we were was boisterous, playfully full of high spirits and energy that needed outlet. Rowdy was the word they used as they to told us they needed two things we were supposed to supply: peace and quiet.
We were loud, because that’s how boys are, but not rowdy. We weren’t vociferous (yelling) or obstreperous (disobedient) either. No matter. None of us knew those words anyway. And we knew better than to correct an adult.
If we were slow to react, it wasn’t that we didn’t know about peace and quiet. We were puzzled about how we could give them anything, let alone two things at once. Our response was usually to go somewhere else to play, where we couldn’t hear them yelling at us. That usually worked.
Now I am an adult who spends a lot of time almost motionless, reading, writing, and thinking. As time goes by, I am increasingly interested in peace and quiet, how they are acquired and why these two words are so often found together in the same sentence.
I find a number of reasons why they are so often together.
The answer is easy, if complex. So often, these are but two faces of the same yearning we seek, for respite from this loud, often vulgar world. Where peace and quiet may be found, they will be together, if they are to be found at all. Both are in short supply.
Seeking peace and quiet means to find an uninterrupted place where you can meditate, pray, think, or just be. Other qualifications vary since we are all different, but some diffused light seems to be most commonly required.
Often, something else is needed to be complete, but that varies too. The presence of different things can be comforting. Some treasured or sacred keepsake, a picture, a candle, or possibly an award accompanied by a twinge of nostalgia and even oak leaf clusters is helpful. Some need solitude while others cherish the companionship of a close friend who shares the same silences, a loved one, or even a loved one’s memory. A small pet to cuddle is fine. Some are blessed with an unseen but not unfelt Presence. For me, if I can spend a little time alone in any empty building, or, lacking that, a retreat into my own memories, will be enough.
It is interesting to note how often two words are linked, in some sort of linguistic Noah’s Ark. Peace and quiet are what started this train of thought, but it only takes a minute to find others. Ignoring the obvious opposing pairs like life and death, night and day, sickness and health, and the ones that are so often found together like salt and pepper, we come to ones that are debatable. A Broadway song links love and marriage inseparably together like “a horse and carriage.” Weak. It’s just a gimmick to make verses rhyme. Many horse lovers have never seen a carriage. You can find one without the other.
Sweetness and light often appear together in conversation. They’ve been around a long time. Jonathan Swift, an English satirist, coined the expression in “Battle of the Books,” written in 1704. Mathew Arnold, an English poet, popularized it in 1869 with an essay entitled “Sweetness and Light.” Both identified these qualities as the two most noble attributes of mankind.
Used with their original intent, they describe either a situation or an individual with unusual friendliness or kindness. Unfortunately, this expression can be used sarcastically with the exact opposite meaning. I find myself not wanting to use the expression at all.