July 1997, Volume 4 Nr.11, Issue 47
In June, 1985, our family moved from New Jersey to Vermont. For a few months we lived in an eight foot diameter dome tent while we built our small home. It took a few days to become accustomed to the sounds and background noises of our new environment.
The apparent traffic that I was hearing in the background was the rush of the stream a quarter mile away in the woods. The unfamiliar daunting yelps of coyotes soon masked the memories of people talking in a large city. It wasn't long before the loudness of silence became familiar and normal.
Vermont is so quiet that after we moved into our homemade dwelling, we were soon talking about sounds inside our house that we would love to get rid of sounds that we typically would not notice. We became aware of the refrigerator and freezer burping and buzzing at all hours of the day and night. The humming of the alarm clock became apparent. We considered replacing it. The computer and printer formed a cacophony of discord difficult to ignore. While we could shut some of these noises off, it was not until a complete power failure occurred that we realized how welcome total peace and quiet to be.Noise Floor
I noticed that once the noise floor of our surroundings abated, I could concentrate on internally generated noise. In the still and quiet of the Green Mountains, it did not take a long time to realize that there exists an ever-present internal background noise. When all manmade noise is absent and when lying down to go to sleep, it is easy to recognize this internally generated noise. These are the sounds of the noise floor of our nervous system and its associated bioneurochemical structures and wiring. Disorienting at first, the noise becomes unnoticeable eventually, filtered out by the brain's notch rejection circuitry and processing. These internal and external sounds, become so familiar, that we easily and unconsciously turn them down or ignore them, in similar fashion to not noticing the refrigerator. They are relatively easy for us to unknowingly deal with.
There are other noises that make their presence felt that from time-to-time, when we least expect them, pop up and influence the way we feel, the way we behave, our state of readiness to be loving to receive love. Our status with ourselves, i.e. our self-esteem, and our relationship to other people is affected by these noises. A brief discussion follows.Intuition
Intuition may be thought of as a form of internal noise. Intuition may be referred to as human inner resources. Pitirim A. Sorokin, writing in The Crisis of our Age, asks the question whether "the truth of faith", which he describes as a "testimony of the organs of the senses, exists"?
Answering in the affirmative, Sorokin suggests that intuition has in fact been instrumental in providing discursive dialectics, reason and logic with a head start that has lead to major mathematical and scientific discovery. Sorokin states,
Skeptics would debate the value of intuition. The skeptic inside me questions the existence of intuition as well. The Dutch philosopher, Baruch Spinoza, when examining claims, theories and new ideas, in the 17th century said,
I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them.
Thus, when it comes to intuition, whether we accept it as a "sense" or consider it to be a haphazard byproduct of normal brain function and neural firing, we can at least agree, saying that intuition is a noise which from time-to-time, we recognize and act upon. Sometimes, the results turn out for the better, other times for the worse.Victim Mentality
We appear to be victims of the world when we project onto events and others the blame for the loss of our happiness. The noise of victim mentality is the voice in our head that is always mindful of the past pain we have experienced. The voice tries to tell us to be fearful of the pain happening again.
This nagging noise keeps telling us that we must get back the happiness that we have lost that which was taken away from us. This is the noise of resentment, the sound of fear trying to convince us that the only way to protect ourselves is to listen and follow the instructions, to go on the offensive and to analyze, criticize and attack before we are attacked.
Often, victimization noises can become quite profound, amazingly ignored consciously but, easily recognized when we put the conscious mind to the task..
I once suggested to a group of students that they try a simple procedure allowing them to listen to theses noises. I suggested that they simply listen, as they walk from their class to the lunch room, to the voices chattering in their mind. They are then to sit down and spend a few moments writing down in a notebook what they heard. They are to pay notice to what was said about this person or other, or what that person was wearing, what they looked like etc. Was there any blaming something or someone else for any of their problems? Did the voice criticize others in an attempt at increasing their own status?
The exercise illustrated the verbal images going on in our head and their far-too-often criticism and negativity. Perhaps, if we could train the mind to substitute good thoughts for the negative ones, we might be more in control of our lives and less immersed in the victim mentality.
From what little experience I have had in life, it appears to me that the voices of victimization which place me on the defensive ready to offend, produce changes in my behavior, which when responded to by others (perhaps also in response to their voice), produce exactly the conditions that I was protecting myself against in the first place that which I least desire. From An Ascension Handbook on the topic of Resonance:
The scientist in me has some difficulty with the use of the words resonance, transmitting and field in the above quoted paragraphs. If one however, sees these terms as metaphors for the combined body language, psychomotor and behavioral changes that expedite communication between people, then perhaps it becomes more acceptable.Fear
I could spend considerable time listing and writing about human phobia. There is hydrophobia - the fear of water, math phobia, social phobia, etc. There are phobias for just about anything one can imagine. The most debilitating might be phobiaphobia or the fear of fear, which may lead to anxiety.
Then, there are prejudice, intolerance, injustice, racism, mistrust, pain, resentment, hatred, lust, gluttony, envy, worry, anger, rage, immaturity, separation, etc. Call them what you will, they are the result of listening to and buying into the voice of fear. We might say that victimization mentality is the manifestation of fear.
Fear, according to the Oxford Companion to Philosophy is,
I believe however, that the definition is incomplete. For the voice of fear not only impedes us from doing wrong, but often prevents us from doing right. When we act out of fear, and do not stand up for justice or defend others when they are unjustly treated, then are not the consequences similar to that of doing wrong? Is not inaction often acceptance or condoning?
Gerald Jampolsky through his studies of A Course in Miracles, has written extensively on fear and love. Jampolsky believes that the voice of fear is one of two noises in our heads. Fear, being that of the ego and the other: love, being that of inner peace, god, call it what you will.
Imagine for moment if all the voices of fear in our minds were replaced by the voice of love or inner calm when there would be nothing to fear and the decisions that me make would come about from the projection of inner peace and quiet rather than defensiveness and protection. If the notion of resonance from An Ascension Handbook has any validity, then imagine what a changed world might be like?External Voices
If the voices inside our head did not so influence who we are and what we do, then the attempt at altering them through external means would not be so intense. By altering the voices people have in their mind, by changing the noises found within, their behavior may be altered. External voices and other noises become a means of control. Sad is the individual who unknowingly is at the mercy of both internal and external noises.
Recently, I was grocery shopping at the local Grand Union. Accompanied by the Musak, I strolled up and down the aisles, listening to the non-descript attempts at lowest denominatorizing music by artists such as, Crosby Still and Nash, the Beatles, Jefferson Airplane, etc. The Musak was an attempt at making the Baby Boomer feel at home, more apt to spend money. But, the originals had to be redone so as not to overly arouse the ire of the counterculture's counterculture. At the same time, machines holding out coupons with little red flashing LED's (light emitting diodes) were vying for my attention saying, "Pull me out. Buy this it's a good deal." Perhaps, I am overly sensitive on these issues. There is however, some insult when the taped Musak announces, "Grand Union Radio!"
Consider the external noises vying for our attention and recognition. There are billboards, AM, FM, and World Band (short-wave) radio programs with their documentaries and discussions. There are television programs, editorials, flyers in the mail, telemarketers, sales people, door-to-door solicitors from purveyors of vacuum cleaners to Jehovah's Witnesses, TV evangelists, preachers from the pulpit, teachers, parents, politicians and philosophers giving speeches, lecturing and otherwise proselytizing, etc.
Granted, some of these "noises" possibly are valuable lessons. The point being, that it is in our and society's best interest, for each of us to recognize that we are easily influenced by what we hear and see. As such, our conscious recognition of the noises that ever attempt to influence us, helps prevent us from being unduly influenced by them.
Think of the millions and millions of dollars spent on the external noises of the 1996 political election. Surely, the noises must be effective or else so much time, energy and money would not be spent on them. The noises that the politicians make, are in many ways, a consequence of the noises made by their financial supporters. One would surmise that the bigger the noise donated, the bigger the debt owed.
While we can debate whether big donors are altruistic in their generous donations, we might agree that their associated noises are out of control. I believe it safe to conjecture, that not only do donors make contributions to causes to which they have an affinity, but also to individuals and organizations that may influence others.
In 1952, 110 individuals contributed $10,000 or more to a political candidate for a total of $1.9 million. In 1972, 1,254 individuals contributed $10,000 or more, including a number of individuals who each gave more than a million dollars to the candidate of their choice, for a total of more than $51.3 million.
In 1993, the Bon Marche Department Store aired a one-second commercial during the evening program Evening Magazine. The commercial for Frango Chocolates was designed to send a subliminal message. The one-second noise was made up of four separate frames and airtime costs were $3,780.
As an example of how pervasive the noise may be, consider the World Cup, which in 1993, televised over 52 games and reached upwards of 33 billion people. Needless to say, external noises are there and they do affect us.Alarm
It has often been said that emotions are alarms, awakening us to matters that require attention. Perhaps, dissatisfaction, unease, anxiety, undue stress, unfulfillment and depression are trying to tell us something. Could it be, that these states are a consequence of external noises influencing the internal noises to such an extent, that so many alarms are collectively going off in so many people, that we are beginning to notice?
I believe that President Jimmy Carter was trying to tell us that in the late 1970's when he made reference to the "malaise" we were feeling. Perhaps, he heard the alarm.
In 1982, he and his wife Rosalynn founded the Carter Center. They envisioned the Center,
It would appear that the Carter's have found a way to respond to the alarm. I would imagine that the noises inside their head differ dramatically from that found within many of us.What to Do?
While few of us have the resources, stature and leadership ability of someone like Jimmy Carter, we all have the capacity to respond to the alarms within by making an effort in reducing the external noise, paying attention to and altering the internal noise as well.
We might choose to make it a point to do something extra each day to minimize the impact of the noise on ourselves and others. Many of us think or talk too much. Surely, I do. Perhaps, we might be more quiet and still choosing to listen more and speak less. Turning off the television or the radio are easy options. We might develop techniques for becoming less ego invested in what we hear and see. What we see, is after all, a reflection of what we think. We might even choose to volunteer at a nursing home, hospital, church, synagogue, temple or mosque, town meeting, school, group, community activity, etc.
Thich Nhat Hanh in his book, Peace is Every Step, likens the mind to a cassette tape that is always running. He states that though at times useful, thinking is most of the time useless chatter. This mindless thinking is more noise. Thich Nhat Hanh (and others) suggest that conscious breathing is a method for quieting the noise. This simple exercise can be done anywhere and at anytime. The idea is that while we are doing the exercise, we are not wandering in needless unnecessary noise. While we breathe in and out we silently say the lines,
In my childhood, I remember attending Catholic Church. Often, I noticed men and women praying the rosary. Whatever else that activity might have accomplished, it seemed another means of quieting the mind.
Though I do not do it often, singing is another possibility. I've watched others sing, investing all their energy into the activity. Afterward, I notice that they seem rejuvenated and uplifted. I've seen this in churches, concerts and showers. It is no wonder that music is such and important part of life's important ceremonies and traditions?
We might take time out from the hectic aspects of the lives that we lead and do nothing so-called productive. Instead of accomplishing yet another task, we might take a bath, watch the sun set, listen to the birds sing or watch the grass grow.VT Mind
In the opening paragraphs of this issue, I spoke about how quiet it is in the State of Vermont. There are many places in the world that are similarly noise free. With a little effort, our minds came become this peaceful as well. With a little practice, we might be able to turn to this noise-free mind whenever we so chose, even when the external noises are loudest perhaps, particularly when they are so.Quotes
It all depends on just how free and happy you want to be...May you know the Peace that depends on nothing.
Today I will remember that what I see in the world is but a reflection of the thoughts in my own mind.
A lady who had just performed to perfection on the harpsichord in Johnson's presence asked the philosopher if he was fond of music. "No, madam", he replied frankly, "but of all the noises I think music is the least disagreeable."
Once a servant dropped a heap of plates with a tremendous crash. Sheridan rebuked the man, saying, 'I suppose you've broken all of them.
"No, sir not one", said the man.
© 1997 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski