Noise Pollution

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: & / Teaching / Society & Its Pathologies / Social Survival / Culture /

Shh! Hospital

Change, change, change. Even change has changed. Ain’t it the truth?

Maybe people have felt that way in every period, but doesn’t it seem to be extra true now? And doesn’t it seem to be the case that for every good change there are ten bad ones?

When I was a kid there were signs, like school zone signs, on either side of a hospital: “Quiet. Hospital.” I took the signs very seriously and I believe I was far from alone. In addition, the hospital was located in a sleepy part of the town anyway. I don’t imagine many people honking or caterwauling in that neighborhood even without the sign. If we visited the hospital, as visitors we were very quiet, mirroring the care of the staff. People whispered at the nurses station. Guests honored the quorums. Guests left peaceably at the end of visiting hours. Guests whispered to the patients: the way we whispered in church: the way we whispered at the …

Quiet! Library

Somehow our whispers in the library were every bit as quiet as our whispers in church: reading, learning, the reading and learning, the study, the enjoyment of others, was sacred.

There were no signs up on either side of my church: and my church was in a far busier neighborhood than the hospital. No signs were necessary. No one would dream of being boisterous in the vicinity of the church. Kids who’d give each other hickeys right in front of the parents would keep their hands to themselves as they passed the church. We Protestants hated and feared the big Roman Catholic cathedral in Rockville Centre, but still, we were silent in its vicinity.

Rockville Centre cathedral
thanx ship-of-fools

Things may change gradually; changes of perception register of a sudden. My memory of my perception of inappropriate noise is located in college. As a student at Columbia, I bought my own text books. We had to read The Iliad? I got my own copy of The Iliad. Not much was expected of us freshman or even sophomore years in the way of research, so perhaps the fact that I spent very little time in the Columbia Library my first couple of years there isn’t explainable alone by my being a terrible, lazy student: always far behind in assignments. But one time I was in the library, trying to concentrate on a text not in my own collection, obtainable only at the library, and no mortal could concentrate amid the bedlam of jackhammers. Columbia was in the midst of some construction and the workers were using modern, that is to say, loud, equipment.

How dare they? Wasn’t learning sacred at Columbia? (shouldn’t in particular my first visit to the College Library be treated as sacred?) That wasn’t my first clue that Columbia was dedicated to contemplation about as much as Pope Julius II was devoted to meekness, but it was the one that smacked me in the ears and inconvenienced me personally. Loud pneumatic drills! busting up concrete at a major learning center. Would the monks of Mont St. Michel have used jack hammers had they had them in the Fourteenth Century?

When I was ten or eleven I used my paper route wealth to purchase my first hi-fi set. Hi-fi was very new in 1948. I got a portable. And I took it into the back yard and played the Firehouse Five Plus Two at full volume: those wonderful old fragile 78s. Everyone in the neighborhood had to know that puberty wasn’t that far off for Paul. Now it’s a rare event for a neighbor to have to pound on my door because they can’t hear their TV at top volume while I listen to Miles Davis’ sound track for the documentary on Jack Johnson. (I had no idea of the volume: I only wanted to feel it properly.)

thanx rody20139

Somewhere around that time I noticed that Manhattan hospitals were erected just as close to traffic as stores. I’ll bet it’s quieter in Tiffany’s than in Flower Fifth Avenue. Even so: much worse would soon come to pass.

In 1979 or so I woke up with my head parallel to and touching, not perpendicular to, my shoulder. (I’d been given some prescription medicine for my nasal passages without being warned that two of the three wicked ingredients affected muscles of the neck.) When my business manager reported for work, I asked her to locate a chiropractor and make an emergency appointment. She got me over to an Oceanside waiting room. I was getting increasingly distressed at how a guy bent like a pretzel was being ignored by the staff. (Naturally, the professional himself can’t see to notice anything from his inner recess.) I started to hyperventilate, the chiropractor got word, and wanted me out of there before I hemorrhaged in his waiting room, precipitating a nice law suit: his receptionist called an ambulance and unloaded me on the local hospital’s ER.

How could my manager know me so little as not to prevent them. Me, a disciple of Ivan Illich (author of Medical Nemesis as well as of Deschooling Society), being taken helpless to a hospital. Might as well take me to an abattoir. I’d rather die in a gutter than be saved in a hospital.

I be back

2013 08 14 Oh, it feels so good to get a few more K. modules back online: and edit them a bit, add graphics … And I think of other things to add:
I mock Columbia’s indifference to it modern noise, in direct conflict with it’s modern myth of silent study. We don’t hear the noise from other ages, so we naively imagine them to be quiet. Let me remind us that medieval monasteries were not quiet, saw little silent meditation, silent prayer. The monks studied in carrels: they read out loud! sometimes very loud. Singing was regarded right up through the Renaissance as good physical exercise!

Aquinas recalled St Ambrose (I think it was) reading without moving his lips! A silent reader! Aquinas had never heard of such a thing.


About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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