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Islanded by noise

Posted on July 8, 2014 by Sunny South News

Sometimes when we hear an expression or read a phrase it resonates and we are reminded of it repeatedly in our daily lives.

That happened for me this past week.

In the book I was reading the characters wanted to have a private and confidential conversation and they chose to do it in a very noisy location. The author placed them in a situation where there was so much surrounding clamour, no one would be able to overhear their exchange.

The very next day I was sharing lunch with a friend and was reminded of what I had read. We were having a dialogue about a variety of issues and concerns but the noise from the kitchen of the restaurant was so loud an eavesdropper would never have been able to repeat what we said. I had enough trouble hearing her myself over the hubbub (with only one good ear sometimes it’s a stretch).

Unfortunately, noise is something we have become accustomed to in our busy world.

Journalist Lisa Ling said, “We live in a culture where we are bombarded with so much noise…”

I find it especially irritating when I am waiting (and waiting and waiting) on hold for an important telephone call.

Each of us has a favourite music genre but I’m certain one with an aggressive beat does not add to my tolerance and patience when I’m on the wrong end of the phone line.

Most malls and individual grocery and department stores have music playing, rarely of the same variety and almost always at a higher volume than necessary. Decades ago when this music was first introduced, and commonly called elevator music, it was designed to be a bland, soothing background. Psychologically it was intended to be unobtrusive but would slow down the shoppers, so they would browse longer.

That is no longer the case I have noticed.

Ambient noise, grey noise or white noise are all terms used in the twenty-first century to describe a strategy to block out other more raucous and grating assaults on our hearing.

When my neighbour is working the night shift, he has a fan running continually to help cover the sounds of dogs barking, delivery trucks and buses reverberating, trains rumbling and car stereos blaring. (Most of us have experienced that particular vibration when we have stopped at a red light and the vehicle beside us is pulsing to deep and throbbing drum beat.)

Too much noise can have a detrimental effect on learning and researchers have recorded those students who are trying to study in an atmosphere of loud radios or televisions (in particular the commercials I have noticed) have reduced concentration and less retention of the material they are reading.

I have a long-time family friend who belongs to the true generation of cowboys and he told me once he loves to ride in the mountains because he can, “listen to the stillness.”

I envy him — the prospect of doing that, since there doesn’t seem to be many places left where a person can do that. If you have a retreat where you can find peace and tranquility —treasure it — it’s rare.

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