Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Changing Landscape

Lately, I have been lamenting the absence of silence. It is nearly impossible to escape noise in our 21st century lives. The din of cell phones and the loud conversations that others have on them has become a staple in our lives. I think one of the reasons I enjoy road biking is the relative peace and quiet that comes with the road. All we hear is the grind of the gears and the tires rolling against the asphalt. As days go, it is a peace that we cannot find in the office, gym or almost anywhere else in public.

We have learned to accept (or learned to tolerate) outside noise in our lives, and the more I hear the less I need. Cell phones ring and people chatter. For some reason, they speak more loudly on cell phones than they do on regular phones or when they are speaking to each other. What is even more interesting to me is how willing people are to give up the peace and quiet of life.

Almost everyone in the gym has a set of headphones plugged in. Sometimes it sounds like they have a head full of bees. The music is so loud that those of us on the outside can hear the buzzing. I can't help but wonder what it sounds like to their numbing head. I don't know how or when they have decided that the outside world is too distracting to them that they feel the need to infest their heads with noise, but it has happened.

I think it's why I enjoy the solitude of bicycling. The only thing between me and the outside world is the roll of my tires on the road. It's a unique noise - or I should say, a unique absence of noise - which is where the solitude comes in. I have an opportunity to think. I'm not sure we appreciate the ability to stop and think about things.

When I was in college, I would escape the outside world by going to the library and seeking out silence so that I could concentrate on whatever assignment I had. Occasionally, a boob on a cell phone would invade my world, and when I would glare at him and ask him to take his conversation elsewhere, I was greeted with a return glare and an accompanying comment that would go something like "screw you," or words to that effect. Strange behavior from someone in a library, I thought.

I remember hearing an old Bill Cosby routine about two things he would like to have in his life. Peace and quiet. The whole monologue was structured around those two words. I've carried it with me, even though it has become less desirable in today's world. We don't seek out peace and quiet. Now, we look for distractions and work toward finding noise. Every new piece of technology is built around infesting our lives with noise and distraction. I suppose we seek it, otherwise the stuff wouldn't be as popular as it is.

The next time you are in a situation where you can find a bit of silence; stop and think about it for a second. I say a second, because it's likely that a second is all the time you will have to appreciate it. Any longer than that, and you are either in a power outage or involved in some sort of fraternity prank where you have been locked in a room by yourself.

Solitary confinement. Another dream of mine.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Solitude is a very rare commodity. One of the main reasons I retired early was the lack of any hint of tranquility in the workplace.

All day long I was subjected to the prattle and constant chatter regarding the most inane and uninteresting topics, non of which had anything to do with the task at hand.

Their lame and confusing internal dialogue was always externalized and shared.

Perhaps that helps to explain the headphones full of disco music at the gym. Their own media-damaged brains cannot find rest from their scattered thought processes, and the "music" may provide them with some sort of respite or perhaps a temporary focus.

If only people would heed the call to STFU.

- Paul W.