by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies
Tom DiVenti in his article “Disturbing the Peace” bemoans that our noisy world prevents people from getting “a little bit of silence.” He identifies the many discomforting sounds from the “din of horns, beeps, dings, dongs” to “sirens and whistles” that prevent us from getting some needed peace and quiet. He introduces his readers to the Anechoic chamber of the Orfield Laboratories located in Minneapolis where no sound exists.
“The walls, floor, and ceilings of this room have a three-foot layer of soundproof fiberglass foam” to cancel out sounds, he writes. Oh, yes, in this room you can hear your own heart beat and every breath you take.
Question: How do people respond to this most quiet space?
We learn from this article that one test subject actually lasted as much as 45 minutes in this chamber before asking to be let out. Another subject, a violinist was disturbed by the lack of sound in the chamber and began to hear strange music in his head–he demanded to be released from the chamber. While many people view noise as overwhelming, it appears that complete silence is not to their liking as well.
DiVenti uses the word solace to describe what he believes people are seeking in this world. In other words, they are seeking comfort. Then, he describes the sounds of nature that bring this comfort, like birds chirping, grass rustling, or a river rushing through a landscape. Yet, to hear these wonderful sounds of nature, one needs quiet in this world.
While combating noise, we should also be working to enhance quiet and many groups nationwide are indeed doing this by asking for more green spaces and parks. It is in these quiet areas that we will be able to appreciate the sounds of nature which will foster health and well-being; in contrast, noise impedes our mental and physical health.
DiVenti suggests in his last paragraph that we should sit back and “[f]eel the calm take over. A meditation of quietude.”
I would add that you should walk in the parks and green spaces of your community to hear the birds sing, the leaves blowing in the wind, and on a gray day, to listen to the raindrops.