It’s one thing to have a lead-foot on the accelerator, but to have a car that sounds like it is struggling when doing so, is just annoying. The new neighbor down the street has a jazzed up Ford Mustang. He punches the gas pedal whenever he drives away from home. His car does not have the throaty, satisfying rumble and roar that is common with hot rods. His Mustang’s noise sounds like a blend of a small motorcycle and an underpowered sports car. It’s a mid-range tone with a dissonant note of whine.
I only mention the car, because the neighbor comes and goes from home several times per day. The sound of the car’s exhaust is crowding the definition of annoying to that of nuisance.
I’m noticing many more types of noise lately. I try not to let it bother me, but I’m getting older. As a result, I appreciate peace and quiet much more than in the past. I feel sad that our sedate neighborhood sounds like a drag racing track several times daily.
On the other hand, each time I feel annoyed by the car, is a time when I can become mindful of my aversion in a meditative way. Coping with and contemplating aversions is an ages old spiritual practice. It is one way of cultivating patience.
Unless a person is physically deaf, noise is just another aspect of the world we must endure. Occasionally, a severe thunderstorm will awaken us in the middle of the night. People in the city become so accustomed to the noise of traffic that they consciously don’t hear it. Some noise, like my neighbor’s car, is annoying, but other noise, like a fire truck’s siren, is a warning.
There is the question of one’s proximity to the source of the noise. To hear the tones from a diesel locomotive’s horns far away in the silence of the night can leave a person feeling profound, romantic emotions. The sound of trains in the distance have inspired song lyrics like “Can you hear that lonesome whistle blow?” The opinion about train horns is more harsh if you live in an apartment directly adjacent to railroad tracks.
A few decades ago, I lived in such an apartment. Trains sounded their horns as they neared the intersection with my street. In addition to the horns, the rumbling of the massive engines caused vibrations that transmitted through the tracks and ground. Each passing train caused the apartment building to vibrate and shake. This happened several times each day.
Being a day sleeper, this annoyance was too much to bear. Following the expiration of the one-year lease, I eagerly moved away to the current, peaceful neighborhood.
“Love is the big booming beat which covers up the noise of hate.”–Margaret Cho
There is also the physically silent noise of mental chattering. It goes on and on as we think. That silent chattering often manifests in ourselves and others as opinions and dogma that drown out the quiet music from peaceful, empathic people. There seems to be endless noise urging us to believe a certain way and to buy certain things.
It takes courage to tune out the naysayers, proselytizers, and agitators of society. Our time is limited and precious, so why waste it living somebody else’s life by other people’s standards? Life is too short to become trapped by the noise of dogma. After all, dogma is traditional belief derived from other people’s thinking and analysis. It’s useful to know when it’s time to switch off the teevee, the radio, and the Web. Our culture is under bombardment by the noise of insecurity. The absence of all that noise brings peacefulness to the mind.
Today is another day that will be filled to overflowing with various types of noise. I hope you can enjoy at least a few moments of precious silence.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Alexander Hamilton. “There are seasons in every country when noise and impudence pass current for worth; and in popular commotions especially, the clamors of interested and factious men are often mistaken for patriotism.”