When I was looking at apartments I didn’t notice the incredibly noisy construction right outside our windows. I attribute this oversight to the same phenomena that happens in the video where you count basketball passes – if you have never seen the video stop everything and go watch it.
Quiet = money
Vox did a video on how quiet has become a sign of quality. And people sell quiet. Bose has become a noise reduction company, and so has Miele. And CEOs establish themselves as quality leaders by disconnecting their phones to have quiet time.
We know a lot about the negative impact of noise, because rich people fund studies to squelch developers. Environmental noise effects not only our hearing, but our sleep, social skills, and cardiovascular health.
I find myself constantly hoping for ice storms at night so the construction is delayed and I wake up to quiet.
Quiet = focus
I’m working with a group of writers, editing everything they write for a year. There’s one guy, Graham, who is a psychologist, and sometimes I feel like reading his stories is when I’m quiet and still and it’s a daily meditation. Other days his stories stream like endless noise. One day, after ten rewrites, I told him I will kill myself if I have to read another version of this story.
The next day, maybe to save my life, he sent a story about how there is no benefit to delaying a bad feeling. I told him to throw out the whole piece. “It’s too broad an idea,” I told him, in case he was thinking of delaying the delete button.
But now I will steal the best paragraph of his story and tell you that our instinct is to delay terribleness – like construction – but that delay doesn’t help us and instead becomes emotional noise in the back of our minds. I would add a link to Graham’s piece here, but of course, it’s in the garbage.
I think we look for people who can help us find quiet. Amelia is my new friend. (That link requires $1 to read. But you know she’s really my friend because the only other person I’ve charged you to read about is Melissa.) Amelia creates quiet in my life by telling me what I should be worrying about. I can’t stop worrying, but at least I can have a prioritized list. For me, focus means quiet.
Quiet = good noise
Specktral Quartet commissioned 45 composers to write ringtones. You can upload the ringtones to your phone and then you turn your annoying, repetitive factory ringtones into something interesting and surprising.
John Cage is a composer whose name is associated with quiet. His piece 4’33” is a solo for the piano, but the pianist doesn’t have any notes. So the audience sits in silence and has no choice but to notice there never really is silence. The composition encourages us to hear all the noise around us as music.
Quiet is mental.
The best financial advice tells you that feeling financially secure is a state of mind; you can think yourself rich. I see how you can change your experience of noise so that it feels like quiet.
Quiet is sometimes just better than whatever there was before. And just like we never really feel like we have enough money, we never really feel like we have enough quiet. That’s why they are both so special: you want more.