Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Slow and Quiet

Two things that make modern life hectic and annoying are the fast pace and the constant background noise. In an age of computers, fast cars, instant-on television, the telephone, and instant communication via e-mail and tweets, we've grown used to things happening right now. We seldom have a chance to stop and smell the proverbial roses. And along with the fast pace of life comes the constant background noise ... the pervasive hum and roar of traffic, the whir of fans and hard drives on the computer, clueless twits yakking on their cell phones, the barking of dogs and the roar of leaf-blowers and lawn mowers, and the obnoxious blather of political attack ads that blend into an oppressive and disheartening blanket of noise that never quite goes away.

So what do you do about it?

Back in October of 2007 I wrote a post about the Slow Cities movement, which seeks to make cities more livable by reducing traffic, increasing green space, and taking other measures that help to slow down the pace of life and make the city living environment more pleasant. One of the requirements for designation as a Slow City is a reduction in the ambient noise level ... something not easy to do nowadays.

But not impossible ...

Yesterday we looked at the suggestion to bring back traditional telephone booths to give people a place to have their cell phone conversations without bothering everyone else. And in the current (March 26th) issue of The Atlantic is an interesting article titled The Science of Quieter Cities that looks at the problem of reducing environmental noise. As cities grow larger and more populous, the level of noise goes up relentlessly and the need to keep it damped down is one of the keys to helping huge numbers of people living cheek-by-jowl in crowded conditions sane and healthy.

The article is very interesting, and describes many of the technological things we can do to help either reduce background noise by making individual things more quiet, and by designing our buildings in ways that help to reduce unwanted noise while allowing more pleasant sounds to filter through. All of these measures will help, but all the technology in the world won't help to correct boorish human behavior ... you can't put up sound walls around ass clowns shouting into their cell phones, or blasting rap and heavy metal "music" from their bass-enhanced car stereos, or shouting obscenities at each other without thinking about the sensitivities of the people around them. The simple application of what we used to call good manners would help reduce a lot of unwanted noise; sadly, good manners are in short supply nowadays.

Slower, quieter cities and lives are - in Shakespearean terms - a consummation devoutly to be wished. We can achieve them partially by technology, and partially by treating each other better. Perhaps we can start now.

Or perhaps we should just wait until the election year din dies down. Sigh.

Have a good day, and have it slowly and quietly. You'll feel better.

More thoughts tomorrow.


P.S. - as long as we're talking slow, here's another related article: A Slow Books Manifesto, in which author Maura Kelly suggests we may want to go back to reading books that need to be read and savored slowly. She writes,

"In our leisure moments, whenever we have down time, we should turn to literature—to works that took some time to write and will take some time to read, but will also stay with us longer than anything else. They'll help us unwind better than any electronic device—and they'll pleasurably sharpen our minds and identities, too."

Live slow, read slow, and enjoy the quiet. Good advice. I like it!



eViL pOp TaRt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
eViL pOp TaRt said...

A little bit of slow and quiet is good for our personal tranquility. Thanks for the reference to the Slow Books Manifesto.

We really also need to have the noise level lowered in movies; and the pace of action slowed anough to be believeable. And less violence!

[The last one was deleted because I made a really, really bad spelling of book.]

Bilbo said...

Oh, but Angelique, I liked the original spelling ... !

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

People who use cell phones loudly in public places are PITAs.

Mike said...

I took my time today to think of a good comment but forgot what I was going to say.