Covid and Culture - (No. 3) - Learn to Mute the Sound

In the last blog, we overarchingly discussed the fact that, notwithstanding the fact that this particular crisis is a global health pandemic, we do have a rare opportunity to look in the mirror and ask some hard questions about how we individually and socially practice lifestyles and rhythms. I do, very intentionally, use the word we there because I am trying myself to do this. 

One of the things I fear most is that globally and societally (especially here in the U.S.), we end up returning to the rat race and muddled priorities and false gods that have left us exhausted, burnt out, stressed, depressed, and angry at ourselves and the world in general.

I fear that we squander this time and the noise does not die down because right now, the noise is everywhere. 

Have you ever gotten the chance to be away from noise? Not like in a quiet bedroom or outside in your backyard at night. I mean like the top of a mountain or the middle of a dense forest kind of silence. No sounds. Anywhere.

There is something about it. I don't get the opportunity to do this very often but as someone who loves to hike, it is one of my favorite and yet most surreal experiences. It's when you realize that the humdrum of traffic is around you most of the time, even though you're not aware of it. It's when you realize that electricity has a sound as it cascades through your walls. It's when you realize that silence -- true silence -- is hard to attain because it requires distance and genuine separation from everything around us except what has been created through divine will. 

And I think the fact is, for most of us, even when we get those few opportunities it becomes uncomfortable after a certain period. At a subconscious level, we don't like it for very long. We have become so accustomed to noise that even at the top of a mountain in complete solitude, we pull our phones out, turn our music on, or quickly figure out a way to even keep our own bodies moving just so we don't have to bear a burden of momentary silence. 

And yet, how necessary we know that it is. It's almost cathartic because it means that we are forced to choose between living in a present moment or return to the mental and emotional distractions that penetrate our daily lives. Most of us choose the distractions. 

There is no way to live without noise and, honestly, I don't know of anyone that wants to. We prefer relationships over solitude, conversation over silence, civilization over separation. I think most of us--including those that are the most religiously devout--suppose that anyone who chooses to live a life in solitude and separation possesses something of a masochistic psychopathology. We need voices, community, music, laughter, dialogue.

But what we don't need is the sound that our culture and society have created to distract us. Most of the sounds we find ourselves truly enjoying and needing are those sounds that have been present throughout the course of history. They are sounds that speak you are not alone; there is, however, a certain kind of sound that attempts to make us alone. 

This is a time where we are dealing with a lot of sounds, but many of us get to choose what kinds of sounds we're going to embrace. What are those sounds for you? What are the sounds you need? And likewise, we get the chance to cut out a lot of sounds that we don't need and, truly, don't want. What are those sounds? How can we turn those off?  


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