Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Value of Quiet

I've never been the kind of person that needs to have a constant source of noise around me. Of course, without realizing it, I always *do* have some kind of noise around me. At work, there is the constant hum of the white noise that all office buildings seem to generate. You don't really notice it until something catastrophic happens, like a power outage. Then it's suddenly so QUIET and kind of creepy, and your ears are left ringing from sudden absence of noise. At home, there is the sound of the wind moving the trees around the house, or the pitter-patter of the rain against the roof and siding, as it is doing now. There is the quiet ticking of the clock, or the church bells in the distance.

It can be quite jarring without these little life sounds that you don't really notice and take for granted, until they are missing. If you've ever tried on a really nice pair of noise cancelling headphones (like the kind you can get to take on flights), you'll know what I mean. It's like being in a vacuum chamber. Downright eerie. I guess what I mean when I say that I don't need a constant source of noise, is that I don't need to have a TV, or music *constantly* on in the same room with me. Don't get me wrong, sometimes it's nice to have some background music on when you're busy doing something. Or if you can't sleep to lay on the couch and just put the TV on at a low murmur that provides company, but not with enough volume to truly engage your interest (sidenote: I've always found it interesting and annoying that you can be literally falling asleep at your computer or while watching TV, and then the minute you get up and go to bed, BOOM! you're wide awake).

I don't really understand the NEED to have that constant noise, to the point that you end up having to talk over, or tap a person's shoulder to get their attention, and you feel guilty for interrupting their sensory experience even though it *never ends*, so how else are you supposed to interact with them? I can't understand how people can have music or a show piping into headphones, and still play a video game and have game sounds chiming in, as well as talk on a chat where people are also speaking into your ears. How do they not go crazy? It's obvious that dialogue is missed, from the request for repetition. Are we as a society becoming so used to being inundated constantly with sensory input that we must have it at all times, just to drown out our own thoughts? Perhaps you use this to drown out someone else, in which case I can't really fault you, you probably have your reasons.

I have a friend whose house has constant music playing, all day. It's what you would consider "mood music".. mellow, usually instrumental, at a low volume. It's not obtrusive, nor does it interfere with conversation. But still.. it's ALWAYS THERE. You don't get to hear the creaking of an old house as it settles and adjusts to the weather. You don't get to hear the quiet hum of appliances. You can't hear the bird songs outside, that would normally come in through glass windows, unless those windows are open, and it's a particularly loud and obnoxious blue jay. I know you can become used to it, but I find myself stepping outside as much as I can when I'm there, just to drink in the natural sounds that are all around, that are being drowned out by that constant artificial noise. For me, that little nothing, the quiet, helps restore my peace of mind far better than any monk chanting or new age music.


  1. Well said! Just have tinnitus like me and the problem's solved.....