Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Turning Down The Background Noise

My husband, Matt, has had to go on a few business trips lately. When he comes home we always spend quite a bit of time debriefing about the trip. The other night we spent a long time talking about how easily we forget that we live our lives quite differently than others.

The first thing we noticed, was that we no longer surround ourselves with the toxic soup of chemicals that is normal to most people in the developed world. The second, that we have really turned down the gain, or the background noise in our lives.

The last time we had cable television (or an antenna) was 6 years ago. We do have a dvd player with a television, which we use to watch movies occasionally. Americans watch an average of 5 hours of tv per day - five hours! Who has time for that? And how can people stand to watch it for that long?

When we ride in the car, we don't listen to music. We just sort of stopped doing that a few months into our relationship. Instead, we talk. It's really lovely.

At home my 20-year-old stereo died a year ago, and we just didn't replace it. Sure, I miss my old jazz records on occasion. But maybe once in a blue moon, certainly not often. And if I miss them, I can play them on my computer with headphones. For the most part, though, it's nice to hear my own thoughts.

I was trying to explain this to my father the other day. I was driving in the car with my parents, and the baseball game was on the radio while four people were in the car talking. Not only was it difficult to hear everyone, but also I'm not used to the frantic energy of the sportscast. It's unnerving, and meant, I suppose, to keep you on the edge of your seat. And that energy is so different from my daily exposure, that it almost feels toxic.

I know people who never seem to want to be alone with their thoughts, who can't deal with silence, who need background noise. And I also see people I know having a difficult time concentrating, on really listening to what others are saying, or really understanding a problem that needs solving.

Since I began to consciously turn down the gain - to save energy, mostly - my blood pressure feels to have lowered, I'm less stressed overall, and I'm quite good at thinking deeply on a regular basis. Plus without television, I get a whole lot more done in one day!

What types of background noise is in your life? Have you thought about eliminating them?