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.
Words can be explosive too
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…
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6 thoughts on “Noise, Noise, Noise!”
Been reading Tim Wu’s “The Attention Merchants,” and my takeaway is that one of the most valuable commodities we have is our attention. “Noise” (visual, aural, and cerebral) vies to capture our attention, and, in turn, our minds, votes, and checkbooks. So easy to hear the siren’s call of unyielding noise and let its sweet seduction rule our lives without realizing the power we have to shut it down and take control. For some, the noise will rule their lives until they die — very poor form, but the noisemakers are exploiting a human frailty hardwired into our reptilian brain. If you can’t sit alone in silence and quietly reflect without losing your mind, then you’ve lost your humanity, just as the attention merchants desire.
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Great points — thank you.
Noise can be used to refer to far more than the audible. Junk phone calls and all of the things that get stuck on the screen of news channels that hardly leave room to see the “talent” could be called noise. We live in an economy based on selling. If, like me, you rarely want to buy anything, every sales effort is noise.
But my favorite example of audible noise is piped in music almost everywhere. Why do I need music to buy groceries? Or to buy anything? Interestingly, “elevator music” seems to be less common in elevators these days. There are a couple of restaurants I avoid because I can’t have a conversation for the loud music. It seems as the volume of conversation goes up, they turn up the music. Now video screens are popping up everywhere…visual noise.
As a teen I couldn’t get enough music but now, five decades later I never turn on a radio or TV at home and listen to rock music only to help me pump away on my elliptical machine. I treasure silence and have truly blissful moments going out late at night on my bicycle when everyone is asleep, there is no traffic and all is at peace. I was happy to discover my new bicycle tires are absolutely quiet (Schwalbe Marathon Plus). It’s as if I am riding on a magic carpet.
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Yes. There’s visual noise too. When I lived in Pennsylvania, my barber kept a TV on (tuned to Fox News, until she discovered it riled people up; then she tuned it to talk shows). Hospital waiting rooms often feature TVs. At my local clinic, the TV is often tuned to the Home and Garden channel and kept on low with the subtitles scrolling on the screen. Remember when most people in doctors’ offices read magazines or conversed quietly? Now people tend to be yapping away on Smart phones or watching (or trying to ignore) the TV.
We need quiet spaces, but they are increasingly rare.
It’s hard to believe we once had telephone booths!
As far as noise on city streets, I don’t know which is worse:
1.). Harley-Davidson motorcycles (with exhaust baffles removed, which seems
to be the norm) with radios that are turned-up LOUDLY so that the rider
can hear it over the engine noise!
2.). So-called ‘thunder-cars’ with the huge speakers and powerful amps,
usually playing some bass-laden music cranked up so loud that all that’s
heard is a constant rumble…
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