In this post I am opting to hop on my soapbox for a spell but I hope that what I share here will help you crave some peace and quiet also. If you are at all like my wife and I you may have noticed that the world is becoming an increasingly noisy place. In my experience, even the library is not necessarily a safe haven anymore.
Not to mention church. Yes, you read that right. As insane as that sounds, we have found ourselves walking out of several churches over intolerable noise levels. Some places of worship even pass out earplugs, believe it or not. One pastor actually suggested a preference for decibel levels proven to be harmful to people’s hearing.
So why am I ranting about the need to tone down the level of noise in our lives? It is because we are wired as humans to connect with the divine as well as each other and excessive noise interferes with that process. We cannot even hear ourselves think, much less make sense of our lives, if we are constantly filtering noise pollution.
According to Damon Young, author of Distraction, “There is the ubiquity of noise (from the Latin nausea), which amply demonstrates the strain on our attention. Recent studies suggest that long-term exposure to noise leads to some 200,000 deaths per year. Aural pollution, from sources ranging from pubs and clubs to traffic, is quite literally giving people heart attacks.” Thus sales of noise cancelling headphones continue to skyrocket.
And Winifred Gallagher writes in The Power of Place: How Our Surroundings Shape Our Thoughts, Emotions, and Actions: “Of all environmental stresses on behavior, [noise] is the worst—an almost entirely man-made plague that rarely occurs in nature…Noise generated by people and their machines causes readily measurable physiological and psychological changes. We find noise so disturbing because it both distracts and restricts…Along with impairing concentration, memory, mood, and performance, noise undermines sociability.”
Speaking of undermining sociability, is there anything more annoying than noisy neighbors? Suffice it to say there is a reason that “disturbing the peace” is considered a crime. And don’t even get me started on the tyranny of television and other gadgets with screens both large and small. By the prominent positioning of the tube in people’s homes you’d think that it doubles as the family altar. Some people act as if they can’t stand to be alone with their thoughts or even share a thoughtful conversation without a tv blaring in the backround. Here’s a thought: try turning down the volume to hear another’s voice.