It seems to me that of our five senses (sight, taste, smell, touch, and hearing) the one that gets the most abuse is hearing. I suppose we sometimes mistreat our eyes by reading in too dim a light or by peeling onions but generally we take pretty good care of them – unless we attend some social event or concert with those flashing strobes that torment both the eyes and the brain.
As for smell, taste, and touch about the only time these senses suffer is when we encounter a situation where they detect something disagreeable or obnoxious – such as when we encounter the scent of a skunk out in the country, accidentally taste an extremely spicy food, or come in contact with a slippery, slimy, yucky object. Our sense of hearing, however, is constantly being assaulted by others and by ourselves.
The reason this subject is bubbling up in my head now is because of what happened recently while we were spending a few days at our travel trailer – which we decided some years ago to permanently park at an “RV resort” in the north central part of our state. This facility, which is in a very rural area, started out some sixty or more years ago as a place where folks could swim and fish in a small lake – and have picnics or camp overnight. Through the years the enterprise has grown until today it provides a number of sites for folks like us who use their travel trailers/campers as seasonal getaways as well as for those who stay there all summer. Many folks like us have built decks, sheds, planted flower beds and some shoreline sites even constructed docks to personalized their facilities.
OK, so what does this have to do with the subject of hearing? Well, on our last trip there I was sitting on our deck reading when I realized something unusual. I asked my Sweetheart-for-Life who was inside the trailer to come out on the deck.
When she did I asked her, “Do you hear that?” She replied, “I don’t hear anything. What should I be listening for?” I told her, “That’s the point. What we’re hearing is silence.” Yep, there were no traffic noises, no TV or radio, no music from someone’s speakers – nothing to assault our ears. What we were experiencing was silence – blessed silence – an increasingly rare circumstance these days.
Today’s society appears to abhor, really hate, silence. Perhaps that’s why one of the first things we do when coming home is to turn on the TV even though we have no intention of watching it – and we keep it on just to have some sound in our lives. The same concept is likely why we see folks walking around with little pods stuck in their ears – gotta have sound. One thing about those ear pods – they are not as intrusive as those boom boxes young people used to carry around blasting everyone’s ears. On the other hand, didja ever find yourself sitting at a stoplight when another vehicle pulled up with the music so loud you couldn’t hold a conversation inside your own car? What must it be like in the other car?
Some people insist on imposing their need for sound on others, probably without realizing it. The other morning when I was having my start-of-the-day swim the pool was relatively quiet with only the splashing sounds made by the swimmers.
After a while, however, the lifeguard turned on a rather loud radio station which emitted unintelligible talk interspersed with what sounded like someone screaming over a background of drums. You know, the hard walls of the swimming pool area are probably among the worst possible venues for sound distortion, but the lifeguard’s need for noise was apparently satisfied. Sure makes a body consider using ear plugs or cotton balls – not to keep pool water out but to deaden the noise.
Since that little incident at our trailer I have been actively trying to reduce extraneous noise in my life – such as turning off the TV when I’m not watching. I do the same with the radio – but with the radio I can listen while doing something else such as household or gardening chores. I have also been actively seeking times of relative silence – intervals when my sense of hearing is not being besieged by superfluous sounds. Guess what? There are such times with some occurring naturally but most must be created by eliminating those unnecessary sounds we surround ourselves with every day – but you hafta actively seek them out.
One of the difficulties we have with accepting silence as part of our lives is the uneasy feeling that the lack of sounds is somehow unnatural. That idea might be something to ponder sometime when you’re not distracted by the noise, the clamor, the din, the racket, of daily living – that is, during a time of blessed silence. At least that’s how it seems to me.