Sounds of Silence

These are not my words but they are my sentiments.

Alan Weiss
Alan Weiss

They come from Musings in Alan Weiss’ Balancing Act® newsletter. (see: http://http://www.summitconsulting.com/)

I was sitting in a hotel club lounge having breakfast one  morning when a man sat down and announced out loud, “How can anyone watch this crap?!” I looked up at the TV for the first time and saw a Good Morning America piece on the proper application of mascara. (I think that’s what it was, it could have been eye liner.)

“Who put this on?” he asked me, as if I were on the staff.

“It was on when I walked in,” I mentioned, wondering if I had chosen an outfit that resembled a concierge. “Why don’t you change it?”

“Ah, they’re all the same,” he said, addressing his eggs, which led me to believe he did not know how to change the channel.

I see people with ear buds and head phones all the time, many of them wandering into me like driftwood at high tide. A great many people walk into a hotel room and immediately turn the TV on, no matter what channel. I asked my wife once why she was watching something in the kitchen that looked to be about motorboat racing. She replied, “I’m not really watching, I just wanted some noise while I fed the dogs.”

For a lot of us, background noise isn’t distracting, it’s desired. I realize there’s some difference between selected music and indiscriminate noise, but a great deal of that music isn’t closely attended, it’s just melodic, pleasant, background…noise.

I actually enjoy the sounds of silence. I’ve had tinnitus for 25 years, so technically my world is never totally silent, but unless I focus on the ringing in my ears I don’t realize it’s there. Watching the world in silence can be a great joy. If you watch an athletic competition with the sound turned off and no announcers explaining every second or crowd noise indicating excitement, it’s a very different experience. You have to pay closer attention and draw your own conclusions. Too often, the “great catch” is in the mind of the announcer or the home town, partisan crowd.

I’m not advocating we all become mute. But I am suggesting that the mindless, unconscious pursuit or noise to fill the silence isn’t always the best way to focus, or enjoy, or relax.

And we ought to do it when it’s within our control to do so. I’ve been in too many restaurants and on too many planes when I would have paid good money just to turn off the noise around me.

— Alan Weiss