“Arguing With Noise Itself”

Those eerie coincidences which intrigued me last year continue.

I was out walking the other day, cheerfully  striding along listening to the doves and the cardinals and the whistle of the wind through the trees when I was aurally assaulted by a car blasting those chest-shaking, heart-grabbing ghetto-bass tones. For a moment, truthfully, I couldn’t even think. I had been turned into a human echo chamber. My thoughts were gone; only his  &*&%$%^#) noise ruled my brain. Then, before I could recover and find a large rock, the car was gone.

And of course I walked into the house, turned on NPR, and there was author George Prochnik   being interviewed about his new book, In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise. I  read a review of the book on Amazon, and was not at all surprised to find this nugget:

Early on in his voyage Prochnik spends some time with a cop who is frequently called upon to intervene in domestic disputes. When he arrives he usually finds that the unhappy home is a raging cacophony of radios, TV’s, music all playing simultaneously–layer upon layer of mad noise used to prevent silence from arbitrating between the combatants. The cop tells Prochnik that he merely asks the subjects to turn off the appliances and the near-homicidal atmosphere dissolves almost at once. They had, he says, been arguing with noise itself rather than with each other.

It’s true, isn’t it? That’s why I’m always perplexed by all the people who use Starbucks as an office or a reading room. I don’t think I could even read a newspaper article, much less an essay or book of any complexity,  with all those layers of noise prying at my attention.

Schopenhauer said that ” the amount of noise which anyone can bear undisturbed stands in inverse proportion to his mental capacity.”  Maybe I’m smart after all.


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