Our ears are bombarded with thousands of fragments of sound, most we ignore, and many we fashion into meaningful information. Most of the time, surrounding sounds are pleasant enough: the birds in the trees, the swoosh of a lawn sprinkler, the crunching of fall leaves, or the crisp creak of a wood floor. Sounds are fun and informative: they help us make sense of things in our environment along with all the visual clues we receive. Everything in total we take in makes for our personal reality.
Be this as it may, there are times when noise pollutions goes in overdrive and we can barely hear ourselves think. This is true in a traditional factory or at a rock concert, even at a ball game. Restaurants are often impossible locales for conversation, but we like the lively ambience. Forget train stations or airports. No wonder everyone is plugged into a smart phone or iPod just to get away, to block out some of the barrage, to break the sound monotony. It is enough to hear all the words floating about endlessly in the air around us, not to mention the music we didn’t select and want no part of.
So let those headphones proliferate to save our souls from aggravation and mental distress. Turn down the volume or put in the earplugs. We need peace and relaxation every now and then. It is not that we want Muzak (elevator music), but just our own selections that speak to us in unique personal ways. We don’t want to be part of another stranger’s realm. If we choose to do so, it will likely be at a social function.
There are other ways to block out sound than earphones and plugs. We can use technology to cancel noise such as the various devices that emit natural sounds like waves in the sea or fields of wheat blowing in the wind. It is called “white noise” and it seems to create a permanent low level din that is barely perceived. Some of these machines come with lights and changing colors so it is a total mind-calming (or bending) experience.
Without realizing it, I used my portable generator a few times to replicate this kind of white all-obliterating noise. I have a small portable one that I use for camping or outages in my house. One time I was testing it for an upcoming adventure and turned it on, only to find that it emitted a light kind of buzzing noise when I paid attention. I found it calming and I kept it on.
I thought it would be simpler or more cost-effective to use a fan, but this actually was too loud. The generator was just right, like Goldilock’s porridge. Mind you, I am not a nervous wreck that needs a machine to tone down the outside world. There are just times when you want to daydream or by contrast to concentrate, and you feel you can do it with noise distraction.
If you lost your hearing, you would not ever regret the din of life, but for now, I can say that the world is too much in my face at times. That’s why people do solo hobbies or go sailing to have peace at sea. It is why they climb mountains to reach the quiet at the top.
We should appreciate the sounds around us, yes, but it is easier when we know that there is indeed an escape. I know people who can’t stand quiet and love the big city. They will open their apartment windows and let in the noise-filled air. They love the honk of a cab, the woosh of a braking bus, the yells and screams of the street. Then then are their counterparts who crave quiet.
If you are of the latter kind, try the generator idea as a test before you get a real white noise machine. If it gives instant gratification, you know what your next purchase should be. Some people find that they meditate better with white noise, even compared to New Age music. So get out those crystals, set up the yoga mat, turn on the generator, and recite that mantra. Pure bliss is a few moments away.