As I sat at the red light, my car was vibrating and my ears were assaulted. I tried to identify the person with the deafening music but I couldn’t. They could have been five cars behind me but it didn’t matter because their bass was so loud, it shook every car in line. Although it was a balmy spring day, I rolled up my windows in disgust.
I have a sister who lives in and loves New York City…Manhattan to be exact. Although she lives in a high rise, traffic sounds and general city life were heard very clearly through her windows on the fourteenth floor, no matter the time of day. When she visits me, after awhile she gets antsy at the quiet. Imagine my delight last year, when I visited NYC and rode down Fifth Avenue and saw signs that warned people of a stiff fine for honking.
George Prochnik, in his book In Pursuit of Silence, “examines why we began to be so loud as a society, what it is that gets lost when we can no longer find quiet and what are the benefits of decluttering our sonic world.” When I encounter people who must fill up air space with conversation, radio, television or music—especially when I am being quiet myself—it makes me wonder if silence is uncomfortable for them.
There are many ways and places people can enjoy noiselessness—or at least replace it with more desired noise. A charming picture book is Sitting in My Box. A little boy has found a big box, and it is his getaway in which he reads or dreams. A host of different animals crowd in, until they are finally “persuaded” to leave.
Edna St. Vincent Millay, in her poem Exiled, laments, “Searching my heart for its true sorrow/This is the thing I find to be/That I am weary of words and people/Sick of the city, wanting the sea.” Her refuge from the cacophony of the city was the ocean. I can identify and as often as I can, I visit the Monastery in Conyers, where I sit by the lake and feed the ducks. Where do you go for peace and quiet?