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.

16 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

    Liked by 1 person

    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…

      Liked by 1 person

      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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  5. Reblogged this on Bracing Views and commented:

    My wife recently said, “We Americans don’t do quiet,” which I thought was a great subject for a blog post. Then I remembered this article from two years ago. We are a noisy bunch, led by a president who’s constantly tweeting trash and shouting at various rallies. We’re so loud that it’s really hard to hear ourselves think. And maybe that’s the point. We’re not supposed to think anymore — or, we’re not encouraged to. “Make some noise” is a typical command issued to Americans, especially at sports stadiums. Promote yourself, we’re told, especially on social media. Put yourself out there. Be loud and be proud!

    It’s truly hard to hear the tiny voice within when it’s being drowned out by all the loud voices without. Including our own.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. We Americans don’t do slow either. In the line at the grocery store (I was #4), the first person had an item that didn’t ring properly (I’m guessing) and was discussing it with the cashier. The woman in front of me was getting really annoyed and decided to go to another line–with her empty cart. Wasn’t sure what she was buying but, hey, not my problem. She was soon back, very flustered and embarrassed, because she remembered her groceries were still on the belt. As we waited, we chatted. That first woman was soon through, and the next stepped up, mentioning that the first two items she was handing over were the last on the shelf. My “friend” in front just raised her eyebrows again, and we talked about the herbed vinegar I was making. She reminisced about the flavored oil her mother had made and how she was so sorry she didn’t pay more attention since she never got the recipe because her mother is now gone. The woman in front of her was done, and she stepped up. As she was checking out, she turned back and said how Italians in the old country think Americans are crazy because we are always in a hurry. I said I agree with them; we are crazy. We never take time anymore but just rush along, often for no good reason. I then added that maybe it is a good thing we sometimes get “stuck” in slow lines that make us stop, however briefly, to just take time to breathe again. Between the continual noise and the rush to get nowhere, should we wonder why illness is on the rise? We often do not enjoy life now; we just exist.

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    1. Yes — people seem to rush from one “selfie” moment to the next. And people love to boast of having “jam-packed” schedules. So busy! Must run! (Because I’m so in demand.)

      Isn’t the reverse better? Not being busy? Not being always on the run? Having time to enjoy life?

      Liked by 1 person

  7. miscellany51, I was in the grocery store with a basket full of items. A fellow behind me had a couple of cloves of garlic. I told him he could go in front me. I was wearing Star Trek shirt with Spock on it, with his Live Long and Prosper Greeting. He paid, turned around and gave me the Vulcan Greeting.

    I went with my dad to my first Cubs game back in the late 1950’s, Ernie Banks was still in his prime. We watched the Cubs on WGN at home on a black and white TV. We walked up the stairs to the grandstand seats. WOW, Wrigley Field was in color, so much green. It is was like a giant neighborhood park, configured into the shape of a stadium.

    What I remember most from that visit and subsequent visits to Wrigley Field in retrospect was the peaceful solitude and a sense of harmony all around. People were talking but it blended in as a white noise, a low mummer. During batting practice when someone nailed a pitch into bleachers or out of the park a roar of awe would be heard.

    You could hear the vendors going through the stands – Cold Beer- Peanuts-Hot Dogs. They had an organ but it was played at a sound level that fit in with the overall ambience.

    I went this week with some friends to watch the White Sox at their park. The artificial noise was at such a volume we could barely understand talking to each other. Then you have all the big board commercials. Every second was dominated by something artificial.

    Back during those old days, the announcers on TV generally spoke very little, except to update you on something. The radio announcers spoke more since they tried to describe what they were seeing into words. Now there are two or three people in the TV booth, who feel it necessary to avoid any dead air, by yapping on about something.

    Several years ago when I still worked I went into the wash room on our floor. Some guy was in a stall, talking on his cell phone. Toilets and urinals were flushing but all that potty noise did not phase him as he droned on. I wondered who he was talking to wife, kids or closing the big deal.

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    1. So true, ML. Same thing when I saw a Red Sox game at Fenway in 1981. Today, there are video screens everywhere — they tell you when to cheer, what to do, even as you’re bombarded by commercials.

      Then, look at the fans today. Many aren’t even watching the game. They’re looking at their tiny screens. They have the richness of reality in front of them — an infinite screen — but they prefer the tiny artificial world of their “Smart” phones.

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    2. Neat response from the garlic man. However, when you do that sometimes, isn’t it sad that people are often so shocked when you let them go ahead?

      I think silence scares us because it makes us think, or rather gives us the quiet to think. I know even here at home my husband cannot seem to go from one room to another without turning the TV on, usually to the news. I go around turning it off again, but then there are days noise, any noise–even the pretty birds in the yard, sets me off, especially if I am stressed to begin. I also think that my husband, with his PTSD, should stay away from the news much of the time, but then maybe it also keeps him from his thoughts.

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