Noise, Noise, Noise!

United_States_Declaration_of_Independence
Words can be explosive too

W.J. Astore

People who don’t like noise get a bad rap in America. We once had neighbors in Colorado who used to ride off-road dirt bikes up and down the street. Someone complained about the noise and their response was, “Don’t like it? Move. This is America. We have freedom to make all the noise we want.”

Yesterday, my barber was talking about television. He was watching an “entertainment” show in which people were screaming, amplified by explosions, and he just couldn’t abide the noise. But he’s an old fuddy-duddy, like me, right?

When I watch baseball on TV, I keep the “mute” button very close by for the commercials. But even the commentators are getting noisy. Baseball used to be a fairly quiet game with two commentators in the booth, a play-by-play guy and a “color” guy (usually an ex-ballplayer).  Now there are often three people in the booth, with another one (or even two) on the sidelines. They all need to speak, of course, so baseball on TV has become a constant contest of endless chatter featuring mindless statistics.  There’s so much chatter that it’s difficult to hear the crack of a bat or the sound of a fastball smacking a catcher’s mitt.  Then there are the stadiums that feature lots of rock music, sound effects (like smashing glass for a foul ball), horns and pyrotechnics that go off when a player hits a home run, and all those video boards that order the fans to “Make Some Noise!”.

I know — I sound like an old fuddy-duddy again — sort of like the Grinch who stole Christmas because he was tired of all the noise, noise, noise of the Whos in Whoville.  And if the Grinch was bothered by Christmas festivities, just think of how he’d react to July 4th, America’s most pyrotechnic holiday. Prepare for bombs bursting in air, jets screaming overhead, and loud music everywhere.

Just so you know, I’ve been known to pump up the volume on my favorite songs; I’ve thrilled to fireworks exploding in the sky; I’ve watched my share of air shows; I’ve even been at the very front of rock concerts as “security” (I fondly recall a Warren Zevon concert at which I had to arrange the return of a leather coat loaned by a fan to Zevon, who donned it on stage to the delight of the fan).

But you might say those noise events were matters of personal choice.  Lately, noise in America seems pervasive, ubiquitous, almost unavoidable.  And noise isn’t simply about volume: it’s about persistence.  It’s about invasiveness.  Think of people who chatter away on Smart phones even as they’re out for a quiet walk along the beach or in the woods. How can you hear the waves or the birds if you’re screaming into a phone? Bits and pieces of conversations I’ve overheard are not about emergencies or even pressing matters; it’s more like, “Guess where I am?  I’m at the beach/concert/top of the mountain!”  Followed by selfies and postings and more calls or texts.

With all these forms of noise, it’s difficult to be in the moment.  It’s even difficult to find a moment.  Also, even in quiet times, people feel pressured to fill the silence with, well, something.  So unaccustomed to quiet are they that they reach for their Smart phones (perhaps to play a noisy video game), or they turn on the TV, or they chatter away even when they have nothing to say. Must avoid “uncomfortable” silences, so we’ve been told.

Part of this is cultural.  Today’s Americans are not about reflection; we’re about action. We’re not thinkers; we’re doers.  If I rest I rust is our motto.  Together with, Don’t just stand there — do something!  Preferably, something loud, splashy, noisy.

July 4th is a great holiday, but along with the fireworks and noise, perhaps we should celebrate the reflective thinkers of America, people like Thomas Jefferson who put the words to the noise of the American revolution in the Declaration of Independence. The quiet sound of a quill pen dipping in ink and scratching across parchment made a very big noise indeed in U.S. and World history.

Trump Fourth of July

This weekend, it wouldn’t hurt to put down or turn off the mowers, blowers, fireworks, Smart phones, TVs, and all the rest of our noisemakers and listen to the birds and waves while reading a few passages from that Declaration of Independence.  For the right words can be explosive too.

9 thoughts on “Noise, Noise, Noise!

  1. It’s just another day in paradise
    As you stumble to your bed
    You’d give anything to silence
    Those voices ringing in your head

    You thought you could find happiness
    Just over that green hill
    You thought you would be satisfied
    But you never will
    Learn to be still
    — Don Henley

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    1. Speaking of Don Henley, a great interview here. I like it when Henley says he’s happy he grew up without Smart phones. I feel the same way: no Smart phones, very few video games, mostly TV (too much) and radio (not enough). Young people today have too many distractions.

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  2. You’ve got that right, noise, noise, noise. So much noise and little sense. TV commercials are loud and obnoxious. Noisy blowers are now ubiquitous. Young people who listen to loud music are going deaf by the thousands. My theory is that all this noise is having an adverse affect on clear thinking.

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    1. In one of my fave. Stephen King Stories Rita Hayworth, or more famously “Shawshank Redemption” I always related to the Scene where Brooks wonders when Life got so “All in a Hurry” after his Stretch in Shawshank, and the fastness of everyone & things all around him!. Especially like the Major Leagues of Sports and how Baseball has even lost its Ebb & Flow by distractions that are not needed. The Crack of the Bat, and the Pop of the Ball meeting Catcher’s Mitt being enough for this Kid back in the day. Perhaps they think that way has grown a little too dull in these future times, but I think just maybe we’re now missing something the quiet, contentment of earlier times, and that people Today see life like from a whizzing Train Window, and can’t help missing the Countryside going too fast to get anything more than a fleeting glimpse and missing what its all about with like you said the Lights, Noise & endless Hoopla…

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      1. Amen, brother! We’re not in rhythm with nature. We’re distracted by all our tools and toys. (Playing with their toys!)

        Just as we need dark skies for astronomy, we need quiet areas, sonic oases, where we can hear nature — and also hear ourselves think.

        That’s why I like my walk out to the flats. All I hear is wind, sand, birds, waves, and a few voices of people here and there.

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  3. 1000% agree with this! Silence is golden. All the “noise” just increases the D2 — the Density of Dumb. Everyone seems to have theiren to give their mouth open and is driven to give their opinion. Prayers to the God of Saint Fu.

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  4. Agreed. But no mention of two of the worst kinds of noise pollution: dog barking and aircraft. Both can exceed 100 decibels and carry for miles. Both are inescapable intrusions. No, dog barking is not natural because domestic dogs are not natural. Nor are their numbers. The baying of coyotes off in the distance is natural. The yapping of the neighbor’s dog at 2 AM is not.

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    1. Yes. It’s no fun living close to an airport. And dogs can be worse than jets because they are so unpredictable. I don’t know how some dog owners put up with incessant barking. Perhaps they develop a form of immunity — or at least tolerance. And then they think if they can tune out their dogs, so should you.

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