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Hear the quiet? Didn’t think so

Posted on March 12, 2015 | Comments

Peace and quiet.  Simple enough, right?  Yet the “sounds of silence” seem to have become more of a scarce commodity in today’s world.  No wonder meditation has become so popular.  Funny thing though, upon visiting a website recently to refresh my memory on the technique, a loud advertising jingle greeted me.  Go figure.

As I see it there are several noise layers that have become routine starting with the subtle yet increasing presence of digital sounds.  You know them—those beeps, chimes and ringtones of every kind sounding off from purses, hip pockets, and anywhere else a digital device happens to be. With electronic advancements, our household appliances have plenty of buttons, bells and whistles from microwaves, alarm clocks, to timers and more.  Outside our windows there are trucks with safety warnings, lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and the ever-present construction sounds. Given all these noises and a few I’ve probably left out, some days it just feels like “natural quiet” is nonexistent without hiking up some mountaintop.

Interestingly enough, The National Park Service has also raised this concern.  It took on a rather industrious project using computer algorithms to predict the loudness of a typical summer day from coast to coast.  Research data released last month reported that the eastern half of the United States is louder than the West.  Even though the project’s newest map of geography includes natural sounds (they make noise too), it’s the human-made features that are the loudest.  Did we need a research study to tell us that?  Don’t think so.

I do appreciate the fact that efforts are underway to look at this issue to help urban planners, biologists and especially the Park Service who are focused on the arduous task of preserving some “natural quiet.”  That’s encouraging for future development and hopefully there are some ideas to reduce noise levels in existing areas which in our neck of “the woods” is pretty dense with housing and commercial enterprise.

The fact that so much in our lives seems to have some kind of noise attached to it, then it’s up to us to find our own way to peace and quiet.  Some might think it’s overrated.  However, if we learn to spend time in silence, the effects on our mental and physical health can be profound.  In the words of William Penn, “True silence is rest for the mind.  Silence is to the spirit what sleep is to the body.” Need more proof?  Google peace and quiet.  You’ll see plenty of entries as long as you can get past the ad noise, that is.


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