Noises

Spanish Peaks WaterfallSomething often taken for granted is our sense of hearing.  It is an awesome faculty and a great resource for our human existence.  We take in vast amounts of information through our ears.  Then, the miracle that is our brain processes, analyzes, and categorizes each bit of auditory information.  Quite astounding!

The human brain has developed the ability to filter the sounds that it detects – to process that which is important and ignore that which is less important.  This selective filtering is evidenced in a mother’s ability to hear her baby cry while the father sleeps through the noise.

We are constantly bombarded with sounds and noises.  As I write this in my kitchen on a sunny Sunday morning, there are several sounds about:

  • The rush of water across a control valve and into the basin as it fills the washing machine in the basement.
  • Little clicks above me as the light fixture warms up and expands across the fixed surface of the ceiling.
  • The ticking and grinding of a motor inside the refrigerator as the ice maker cycles.
  • The chirping of birds in the front yard as they great this early spring morning.
  • The scratching of my ink pen across a sheet of paper as I jot down these thoughts and observations (Yes, I actually use pen and paper to write!)

Sounds are all around us, some we consciously detect, others are there, but we don’t notice.  We’ve developed the ability to filter these sounds – to distinguish the important from the important.

A concept of engineering is the “signal-to-noise” ratio (SNR).  It measures the signal (the important information) as compared to the background noise (the unimportant information).  To enhance the SNR, one either increases the strength of the signal or reduces the noise.

We need to develop the ability to selectively filter the many noises out the everyday aspects of our lives.  Our modern world is filled with noise jockeying to grab our attention – people, companies, media, advertisement, government – each vying to get our attention or as a marketer would label it “to make an impression”.  Noise has become a significant characteristic of our culture.

Are all of these voices important or just noise? Are we obligated to listen to them all?

Recently, I was enjoying a pint at a local Brew Pub while conversing with a friend.  As more people entered the Pub, each began to speak with their companions, increasing the overall noise level in the room.  I had to significantly increase my volume so that my friend could here me, and I had no way to effectively reduce the background noise.

How can we individually enhance the signal while eliminating the noise?

How do we prevent the noise of our busy worlds from distracting us?

Can we turn down the volume of the background noise, the distractions, the unimportant things in life so that we can focus on the important, on that which matters?

First, it is a decision.  Each day we are to decide on what is important for that day and listen to the voices that support the important.  It is your decision not to be driven and controlled by the noises of life.  Instead be controlled by the signal.

Second, it is planning.  We need to schedule time each day to focus our attention exclusively on that which is important.

Third, it involves maturity and calmness.  We need to grow and harvest an individual ability to disassociate from the trivial in our lives – the noise.  Sometimes it is a physical act to do such:

Turn off the TV, radio, iPod, or other background noise

Ignore the media hype – block out times in your day where you don’t check news or social media feeds

Silence the beeper on your smart phone – no new email or text alerts

The world can be crazy at times and filled with a perpetual crescendo of sounds and noise.  The volume amps up as each of us competes to be heard.

Take a step back from the noise.  Acknowledge it, but don’t be controlled by it.  The noise isn’t very important – the signal is.  Listen for the signal, instead – the signal is what really matters.

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About John Forrest

Writer