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Turn Down the Noise

June 30, 2019 | by Emuna Braverman

There’s no escape: restaurants, shopping malls, weddings all blast music way too loud.

It’s official. I am an old fuddy-duddy. What is the proof? While my children may be prepared to cite many examples to bolster this fact, I am focused on one: Everywhere I go, I find the music too loud.

Now I’m not even mentioning the fact that I don’t like the music (You call that music?!) because that would definitely enshrine me in full fuddy-duddy status. I’m just saying it’s loud. And because it’s loud, it actually interferes with our relationships. If we go out to eat, it’s almost impossible to have a sustained conversation. I don’t want to be annoying by asking my companions to constantly repeat themselves, so I end up just nodding my head and smiling.

There seems to be no escape – grocery stores, shopping malls, bowling alleys (bowling used to be such a wholesome family activity but now there are constant loud videos that may be inappropriate and certainly make it difficult to interact). One of the worst offenders seems to be weddings and bar mitzvahs. This is certainly ironic. Here we are in the midst of a family celebration – yet talking to our relatives is virtually impossible. The decibel level of the music makes even basic hello’s and how are you’s difficult to enact.

A friend recently spent a few hours at a wedding endeavoring to converse with those around her. Her vocal chords were so strained from the effort that she had to completely rest them for two weeks.

And don’t get me started on the potential damage to our ears, another destructive influence that becomes more concerning as we age. In fact, studies say that decreased ability to hear can lead to dementia. It definitely leads to social isolation and loneliness.

But even without these dramatic situations, I just think it makes everyday life more frenetic and less restful. The heightened noise level increases our stress; I feel like I am constantly looking for a place to escape. There is such a sense of relief when I enter my house and shut the door behind me, effectively locking out the barrage of sounds. Whoever coined the term noise pollution was definitely on to something.

I think I’m feeling particularly sensitive to this issue right now because I have been traveling for about a month. I can’t think of any public situation, any venue including the outdoor ones where the music wasn’t blasting, where I could think quietly. Maybe at the Kotel – although even there the loud camp-like cheering and singing from some of the groups makes it hard to concentration on prayer, on having a quiet tête-a-tête with the Almighty.

I don’t mean to sound churlish. Music is wonderful. It can be beautiful. It can be a window to the soul and it can uplift us. But at a certain level, it no longer feels like music and more like noise. It doesn’t feel like it lifts my soul; it feels like an assault on my very being. And I think the lack of quiet space is a loss for all of us. It means no time to think, no time to introspect, no time to reflect – on life’s big issues or on our own need for growth and change.

I think the biggest loss of all is the spiritual loss, the loss of quiet contemplative moments, the loss of the space to really think about our growth and our relationship with the Almighty.

Perhaps we have created a world (consciously or not) where we don’t have to introspect because that can be uncomfortable. We may not always like what we find. We may not want to do the work. Let’s just sing along instead or crowd our heads with loud music so nothing else is possible.

But this isn’t really a prescription for healthy living. I’d prefer to turn down the noise so we hear ourselves think and actually listen to each other – and the Almighty as well.


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