A former roommate came to visit me over the holidays, and after a few days, she said, “I’d forgotten how peaceful and quiet our house always was.” She lives now in an intense urban area, and the relative noise-free of my place was noticeable for its emptiness.
Her comment made me realize I do just about everything I can to regulate noise. I’ve always been this way. I was the neighbor who would complain about loud music, even in college. I’ve never been shy about pounding on walls if I can hear you next door. And all the trains, planes, and buses on my trip through Europe would have been intolerable if someone hadn’t introduced me to earplugs just before I left.
When I saw this video on Emma’s Hope Book, I understood.
I don’t perceive things as intensely as the young man in the video, but I get why so much stimulation can be stressful. It made me wonder: Are we creating undue stress and pressure with how cavalier we are about adding noise to our lives?
Hospitals are finding that reducing the ambient sounds on their floors helps patients recover better. This makes sense to me. If illness is often exacerbated by stress, shouldn’t a healing environment be as peaceful as possible? That means getting rid of any sound that could cause alarm or irritation.
Which is about how I’ve always set up my homes. My ears need to shut off when I’m home and not be on constant red alert so I can relax. It’s unexpected or uncontrollable sounds that are the worst. Normal street noise or appliances fade to nothing; sudden bumps or thumping music or shouting (especially) cannot be ignored and color everything. I’ve even been known to waste a good hour or two trying to track down a cricket that was trapped in a closet.
If I could start a crusade, it would be this: to reduce unnecessary and unnatural noise everywhere. Bring down the volume. Be aware of the airwaves. Notice when you’re generating sounds that might be infringing on someone else. Learn again to hear the crickets (outside) and the birds and the wind. Let those be the sounds that wash over us every day, rather than the cacophony of pings and ringtones and raised voices and squealing brakes.
What if we all found peace again, just through our ears? I’ll bet that would lead to peace in other ways, too.