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Peace and quiet is all about the noise in your head (nautil.us)
299 points by dnetesn on Feb 19, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 109 comments

In a remote and quiet place, Vikman says, she discovers thoughts and feelings that aren’t audible in her busy daily life. “If you want to know yourself you have to be with yourself, and discuss with yourself, be able to talk with yourself.”

I was a homemaker for years. A lot of housework is fairly mindless, allowing for uninterrupted deep thought because most folks will not bother you while you are doing laundry. They don't want to be asked to help.

I have spent years cultivating a relatively quiet life by American standards. Since my ex moved out, I mostly have not had a TV. I gave up my car years ago, giving up its built in radio along with it. In my household, it is a common courtesy to announce "I am starting up a video (or game) with voices." so as to not startle anyone.

People complain a lot about the stress of our 24/7 always on lives in the US. They often lay the blame on computers, smart phones, email notifications and social media. I have a smart phone and computers. I don't feel harried and interrupted and like I can't get a break.

My life was quiet before sleeping in a tent for nearly 6 years, but doing that deepened the quiet. I am prone to ear infections. I can't wear headphones because of it. My days were spent in a library. My nights were spent trying to be quiet enough to go unnoticed and not have the cops called on me. Games were often played with the sound off.

Peace and quiet is necessary to be able to hear yourself think. I think the degree to which constant noise interferes with deep contemplation and self reflection goes largely unrecognized.

A lot of people could probably skip therapy entirely if they could just arrange to hear themselves think. But I think many people are intentionally avoiding that because the constant flak of noise obscuring their thoughts and feelings is critical to their ability to stay in a relationship that doesn't work or at a job they actually hate.

Hearing their own opinions about their own lives would likely compel many of them to make hard decisions and big changes and they would rather not know. That's scary. It's overwhelming. The noise that enables remaining stuck is like an anaesthetic.

> A lot of people could probably skip therapy entirely if they could just arrange to hear themselves think.

I'm sure you aren't completely implying this but as someone who went through therapy and attended group classes where I encountered dozens of people with significantly worse forms of anxiety, there are a lot of people whose problem IS their thoughts.

Negative thoughts are capable of preventing people from doing even basic things like talking to a friendly stranger, washing dishes, or even getting out of bed to do a routine. It akin to having poor eye sight and being forced to wear a broken pair of glasses. Those thoughts completely change the perspective of the world, sap energy, and foster incredibly awful feelings. And I think without guidance, it's easy to get into a loop where thoughts can pull a person into a deeper darkness.

I personally find it much easier to be with my thoughts now that a lot of my life has changed for the better, but there's no way I think I could've done it without my therapist. I needed someone to be my champion, to be a voice that could counter my inner critic, to build my confidence before I had the capacity to challenge the beliefs that constantly prevented me from doing things that brought fulfillment.

I've been in that situation, and meditation/silence actually helped me in a big way. I hiked out to a remote campsite and lived there for a couple days, alone. No technology except an emergency GPS beacon.

In daily life we're bombarded by things that can trigger negative thinking... in meditation/silence, my only anxiety was how other people would think doing that was weird. Instead of getting pulled apart by a myriad of negativity, I could finally focus on battling one thing. I've never had a chance to do that before: completely focus on one anxiety for hours without interruption. Embracing it destroyed it, like some form of semantic satiation.

Could you explain a bit more about your negative thought problems and how therapy helped? I'm in a similar situation and am looking at options to help myself. Thanks.

Woebot is a project out of Stanford which teaches you how to recognize and correct unhealthy thinking. It is also an interesting example of a chatbot based service. https://woebot.io/

I'm quite disturbed by efforts like this. Perhaps because I cannot fathom how a chatbot can help replace human compassion and emotion from just simple human characteristics like facial expressions.

A major part of the solution will be to get together and try to understand each other. Not to delegate this to a bot that'll spit out some random LSTM generated "words".

Our bots can help solve some problems in our communication, and can help us communicate when we cannot physically do so. Hawking will testify to this perhaps.

They should not communicate instead of us being able to do so.

To plagiarise myself from another, similar HN thread (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14504306):

That's not self-evidently a bad thing.

For example, here is an article about Ellie, a South-Carolina University virtual therapist used in the treatment of PTSD. It notes some explicit advantages which at least complement humans:

“One advantage of using Ellie to gather behaviour evidences is that people seem to open up quite easily to Ellie, given that she is a computer and is not designed to judge the person”, Morency explains to news.com.au


Morency stresses she is not a substitute for a human therapist. Rather, she is used in tandem with a doctor as a data-gatherer, able to break down walls which may exist due to a patient’s unwillingness to disclose sensitive information to a human.

As Morency explains, “The behavioural indicators that Ellie identifies will be summarised to the doctor, who will integrate it as part of the treatment or therapy. Our vision is that Ellie will be a decision support tool that will help human doctors and clinicians during treatment and therapy.”

- http://www.news.com.au/technology/innovation/meet-ellie-the-...

Overcoming it is a long process, and I'd be lying if I said if I'm over it. There are still some aspects that I am very sensitive to which can throw me overboard for several days, so I don't want to pretend as if I'm fully different. But I'll try my best to talk through some of the things that helped.

For me, negative thoughts are triggered by certain situations, namely inter-personal relationships and the fear of rejection. In scenarios like dating someone I'm really interested in or befriending a stranger whose respect I want to earn, I immediately assume the worst: that they think lowly of me, they dislike me, they are having a terrible time, etc. Internally, I'm going haywire and panicking. And unless I get an explicit sign of approval, I ended up with a lot of self-loathing.

This made it really hard for me to make new friends, to socialize, to go to parties... I'd over-analyze unfamiliar social situations which would cause me to not want to socialize, which would only make me feel more lonely with a lack of self-confidence. I didn't want to smile at someone like a stranger and experience what its like for someone not to smile at me back. I didn't want to be honest with a woman unless I knew with 100% certainty that they were interested in me because rejection was soul crushing.

The tipping point for me was when I went on a friendly outing with a woman who I liked. I felt like I couldn't be myself and was internally frantic throughout the entire day we spent together. I cared too much for her approval that I ended up about as interesting as a blank piece of paper.

From that moment, I knew something wasn't right and that I needed to get professional help. I knew that there were things I wanted in life, like more friends, a significant other, and more comfort in my own skin, yet I wasn't anywhere close to it. Thinking about things only made me more depressed.

There's two major things that helped me.

The first was I ended up going to a Psychotherapist as she said she could teach CBT. But she didn't really explicitly teach it, so much as talked me through my thoughts and we came up with ways to incrementally challenge me. Things that she helped me discover through talking were:

- She reveal to me that I an abnormally strong inner critic which prevents me from taking risks in order to prevent me from potentially getting emotionally hurt. He keeps me safe, but also prevents me from growing.

- She taught me the importance of meditation and mindfulness, so as to be more aware of my current state and to recognize I don't have to be carried away into the flow of emotions if I am aware that its there and/or what triggers them.

- She constantly challenged me to try uncomfortable situations socially

- She revealed to me my inner child who has certain vulnerabilities. If I could learn how to take care of him by imagining myself with him, I could learn how to deal with certain problematic situations such as social rejection. I was honestly skeptical at first and felt this was overly new-agey, but I have found it helpful to think about what I'd say to my younger self to assure them when I experience something that I know would hurt them.

My therapist ended up becoming a figment of my mind, where if I'm in a situation, I consider what she would say to me and act accordingly to it.

The second important thing was that I needed to not rely on others to bring me happiness, but I had to be able to generate on my own. For some, it's their religious faith, a certain hobby, physical activity, their work... for me, it was learning. Via HN in early 2017, I took Learning how to Learn which opened up my eyes to the process of learning. And then from there, I just haven't been able to stop learning things that continue to amaze me. Suddenly, I could find things that interested me and happily engage my brain instead of passively relying on some entity to bring happiness to me in the form of games, social media attention, etc.

When I finally had both therapy and self-generated happiness, everything clicked. I recognize it isn't a mind-blowing fact: without a purpose, life can feel tough and lackluster.

In summary, my psychotherapist revealed unique things about me that I'm more aware of that I wouldn't have recognized without a third-party perspective, and gave me the mental and physical tools to deal with triggering situations. But that was only half the equation, the other half was finding something purposeful in my life that brought me excitement and a sense of accomplishment, something that no one could take away from me.

Thanks for sharing something so intimate.

With regards to the Learning How to Learn, is it this course on Coursera? https://www.coursera.org/learn/learning-how-to-learn

Yes! That course really gave me a stronger understanding of how to learn, and gave me a lot more confidence that our minds are more malleable than we might believe.

I recommend a 10-day vipassana meditation retreat (https://www.dhamma.org). There are no charges for the courses - not even to cover the cost of food and accommodation. It is non-sectarian, with no hidden agenda. You basically meditate for 12 hours a day - no reading, writing, talking, or listening to music, etc..

I had problems with panic attacks that would sometime keep me awake all night. I tried medication and therapy without much success. What I learned at these retreats was invaluable and has helped me to manage the panic attacks and anxiety.

You may wish to read and try out some of these. An extract from [4]:

>>> A man lost his right hand in a freak accident. He quit his job and became really negative and bitter. Unable to put up with his attitude, his girlfriend broke up with him. This young man went into deep depression and shunned everyone. For months, he didn’t meet or talk to any of his friends. Just when his wounds were starting to heal, he went online to see what his ex was up to. He was shocked to find out that she had already married someone else.

He saw her pics. She was happy, laughing, partying in every one of them. He went and visited Facebook pages of his other friends. Someone had got a promotion, someone else had a child. Everyone seemed to be having fun.

“My life sucks,” he thought. “I’ve lost my right hand, my job, my love and my friends. No one wants me, no one needs me and no one is even bothered.” Negative thoughts began overpowering his mind so much that he decided to end his life.

He went on the top of his high rise building and looked down with the intention to jump. Just then he saw the most amazing scene.

There he was, a pedestrian on the sidewalk dancing most joyously, as if no one was watching him. Not only that, he had no hands, not even arms and yet he was merrily dancing. Giving up the idea of suicide, he rushed downstairs to know the secret of the pedestrian’s happiness.

“Sir,” the man said humbly, “I’m so inspired and touched by your positive outlook. I see you have no arms and yet you are dancing. What’s the secret of your happiness?” “Happiness? Dancing?” he replied somewhat awkwardly, without stopping his dance. “Man, I’m just trying to scratch my bottom. It’s not easy I tell you.”

Now you know the secret of people’s happiness when you see them dancing or partying. Just itchy bums.

Happiness is your personal state, a private matter (though the more you spread it, the more you get to keep). When you fail to see the good in your life (and everyone has abundance of goodness if you choose the right perspective), there’ll be nothing good left to feel. Be simple, be grateful. An ostentatious or flamboyant lifestyle can bring you attention but not happiness. You are entitled to have your comforts, but extravagance is a disease.

Socrates lived a frugal life and he believed that only a wise person understands the beauty of frugality, of simplicity. It is said that he would not even wear shoes and yet every so often he spent hours and hours in the marketplace looking at various goods on display.

“Why do you waste your time in the market,” his friend asked him once, “when you never buy anything?” “Because,” Socrates replied, “When I go to the market, I discover how many things I am perfectly happy without.”

I don’t think there’s anymore to happiness than noble actions, gratitude and contentment. No doubt, happiness is not merely an emotion but a state of being. Above all though, happiness is an attitude. When you make it a point to live your life positively, to appreciate the goodness of your own life without measuring it against the lives of itchy bums, your world will light up with the radiance of a thousand suns.

“What do you think the weather’s gonna be like today?” Mulla Nasrudin’s friend asked him. “Just the kind I like,” he foretold patting his donkey. “How can you be so sure?” “Knowing that I can’t always get what I like, I’ve learned to always like what I get,” Mulla said. “So, I’m certain we’re going to have awesome weather today.”

1: http://omswami.com/2016/12/the-secret-of-being-positive.html 2: http://omswami.com/2014/10/source-emotions.html 3: http://omswami.com/2017/05/five-principles-happiness.html 4: http://omswami.com/2016/03/an-attitude-of-happiness.html

Look up Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

I have a slightly different perspective on thoughts. To me, they are by-products of what’s going on in the very vast sub conscious mind, and an indicator of what is going on down there. They are information, but not a means to an end. It’s like listening to noises at night - it can be beautiful at times, but at some time I just want to concentrate on other things that matter to me. I find them too volatile to provide deep self reflection on their own (so just listening to thoughts is not of much use), and it’s hard to have an inner dialogue because auditive memory is not available, so you get stuck debating with yourself in circles. (Might be just me, of course)

When I work, or talk to other people, I don’t hear any thoughts, and I think this is because the speech-building parts of the brain are preoccupied with the task at hand.

And if I talk to people, I often hear myself saying things I had not thought of before. I’m not in therapy, but I’m sure it would work way better for me than just thinking. Real talk definitely beats thoughts by a wide margin in clarity and expressiveness.

I definitely need silence for downtime though, I love staying up late alone for that reason.

Sounds a lot like Thich Nhat Hanh's approach (Miracle of Mindfulness) :)

While washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes, which means that while washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes. At first glance this might seem a little silly: why put so much stress on a simple thing? But that's precisely the point. The fact that I am standing there and washing these bowls is a wondrous reality. I'm being completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my presence, and conscious of my thoughts and actions. There's no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves.

I read a great story, about him or one of those Tibetan Buddhist mindfulness teachers, wish I could remember who. He was teaching a mindfulness course at Esalen, on doing one thing at a time and really being there. One morning his students caught him in the act reading the paper while having breakfast. "Aha!" they said. "Yes," he said, "and when reading the newspaper and eating breakfast, read the newspaper and eat breakfast."

> The noise that enables remaining stuck is like an anaesthetic.

Thanks for this comment. I almost always listen to music while working, or to online noise generators. Your statement hits the nail on the head – it's an addiction to distract yourself into a pleasant dullness, and I've been blissfully ignoring it as such.

> A lot of people could probably skip therapy entirely if they could just arrange to hear themselves think.

I tend to agree, but it may take time to see therapeutic effects. That initial period of quieting, at least for me, through meditation, was more chaotic than the noise. It turned everything upside down, everything I thought I’d known about myself was pretty much wrong. I’d just been telling myself stories for years and when I stopped listening and believing they were the truth - wow. I don’t think you necessarily need to have anything external change in your life for it to be a big adjustment.

Psychedelics can accelerate the process by stripping away ego and forcing one to consciously process realities about one's nature and situation.

I think I'd agree, in part at least.

It's great being able to get outside in the relative quiet. Maybe a walk at the beach, or in a forest, or on a hike in the hills. Maybe even a drive if you enjoy drives out of the city. Etc.

There isn't anything quite like it. But unfortunately many people seem to forget that we are able to do this.

I live in a house by a road. A particularly busy road. Every time I go outside, whenever I sit inside, any time I'm digging the garden, all I can hear is traffic.

Those few occasions that I'm outside and hear nothing, not even distant traffic only birds, are almost a religious experience for me. It's just so calming, and almost everything in my life seems better for just that short time.

Then the cars come by.

(Off-topic: why did you change your HN account? Both your profiles link to your websites that feature the same name (so if it was for a privacy reason, you might do well to clean out your old profile), and you didn't take time off between your last post on your previous account and your first post on your new account. I only noticed because you are a frequent and recognizable commenter here on HN.)

American culture of making noise and hyping is tiring and annoying at times.

Sports events are the most prominent example. Going to popular sports matches in the US: football, ice hockey, basketball, etc. and you'll be bombarded with ads, noise, hype from the loudspeakers and flashing lights from the huge screens -- every single second you're there. When you watch the Super Bowl, you watch more ads than you watch the game. Going to a soccer game which is the most popular sport outside of the US, the only sound you'll ever hear is when the fans actually make noise. And perhaps, the announcement when they substitute players. By the way, it's quite cool to be in a high-stakes soccer match: There are volunteering leaders emerging from the crowd that orchestrate the people naturally. Noise in sports events are great, but only when they are not from the stupid flashing screens.

It's not a surprise to me that the laugh tracks were invented in America. Their presence in modern American sitcoms is annoying at best. But now, I think the producers started to realize that.

I think we are happier when we're treated like adults who know how to feel and behave.

What you said reminds me a lot of what David Foster Wallace once said in an interview:

"No, it's um... I mean, there's a difference, though, I think, between being mildly bored and but then there's another kind of boredom that I think you're talking about which is um: reading, reading requires sitting alone, by yourself, in a quiet room. And I have friends, intelligent friends, who don't like to read because they get - it's not just bored - there's an almost dread that comes up, I think, here about having to be alone and having to be quiet. And you see that when you walk in. When you walk into most public spaces in America it isn't quiet anymore; they pipe music through. And the music's easy to make fun of 'cause it's usually really horrible music. But it seems significant that we don't want things to be quiet, ever, anymore. And, to me, I don't, I don't know that I can defend it, but that seems to me to have something to do with when you feel like the purpose of your life is to gratify yourself and get things for yourself and go all the time, there's this other part of you that's the same part that can kind of, is almost hungry for silence and quiet and thinking really hard about the same thing for maybe half an hour instead of thirty seconds, that doesn't get fed at all. And it makes itself felt in the body in a kind of dread, in here. And I don't know whether that makes a whole lot of sense. But I think it's true that here in the US, every year the culture gets more and more hostile - and I don't mean hostile like angry - just, it becomes more and more difficult to ask people to read, or to look at a piece of art for an hour, or to listen, to listen to a piece of music that's complicated and that takes work to understand, because - well, there are a lot of reasons - but, particularly now in the computer and internet culture everything's so fast, and the faster things go the more we feed that part of ourselves but don't feed the part of ourselves that likes, that likes quiet, that can live in quiet, you know, that can live without any kind of stimulation. I don't know."

This is why I love to escape for 1-2 weeks every 3-6 months to go camping and hiking, preferably around Olympic National Park. It's like a complete refresh except you get back from it and there's a serious chance of post-camping depression. Just don't listen to Lord Hurons Meet Me in the Woods for a few months.

I used to listen to audio-books/podcasts whenever I am doing anything mindless. But I just went on a hike this last weekend and didn't listen to anything and it was so peaceful and meditative.

A few years ago I peaked at reading 72 (mostly audio) books in a year, and since then I've been reading less and less. I realized, even though we consider reading to be healthy, that reading THAT much is is its own form of distraction/procrastination/escape.

That's a really great quote. Here's the video for anyone looking for the full interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?src_vid=FkxUY0kxH80&v=UKdZU9Db...

Here's an example of what a soccer game would look like if commented the usual way:


This is pretty hilarious, but as a fan of both American football and soccer, basically complete nonsense. Soccer commentary is pretty much just as pointless anyways, maybe even more so, since usually the analysis is a lot more ambiguous.

I don't think the point of the video is suggesting that soccer commentary is better. It's simply pointing to the reality of watching NFL sport commentary where we're constantly bombarded with stats, and graphics.

The laugh track in the last two series of Red Dwarf is incredibly off-putting, can't blame that on Americans. :)

Americans invented the laugh track. ;)

Aren't the players literally wearing advertisements in those sports? I find that hard on the eyes, personally. (I realize some US sports do this. Nascar comes to mind.)

One thing I didn't understand when I visited the US is that people applaud in American cinemas. I don't understand why that's seen as appropriate.

I've only experienced that during a movie in, say, the midnight premiere of a popular sequel where people are really giddy. But I've experienced that everywhere including Paris and Prague.

I guess that's what you're referring to because it's hard to call applause during credits "inappropriate." Thought that's something I only experienced out of the States.

It's just fun. We're social animals. Nice to just go along with it instead of being judgmental.

Why is it considered inappropriate to be a participant with an enthusiastic crowd who loved the particular scene or movie? I think it is actually cool.

Where did you go? The only time I have heard applause at a movie is when the credits roll.

Yeah, but why? "Good job, projector. You shine ever so brightly among us. and you never missed the screen once during the whole movie!"

Or perhaps the crowd applaud themselves for successfully going to the movies again.

The possibilities are endless.

A social urge to show appreciation, even when the intended recipients couldn't ever possibly hear it. I've mostly seen it in cases where excitement was already high, like the first night of a highly-anticipated movie, where something exceptionally amusing just happened.

People sometimes express emotion in ways that don't really make sense.

Or maybe the audience enjoyed the movie?

I don't think it's any different from watching a sporting event and screaming and shouting when the team scores a goal. Even if you're all alone, you want to show appreciation.

Have you ever cried because of a movie? If so, why?

I'd argue crying is a much more primal respons than the somewhat arbitrary slap your open palms together to create a noise response.

Must be regional?

The only movie I've ever heard people applaud for was a very political movie (Fahrenheit 9/11). That's also the only time I ever had to stand in line for a movie as well. If it wasn't opening weekend, it was close to it.

having lived here 40+ years, and seen many movies, I think I've seen/heard applause or cheering maybe... 2 or 3x? At the end of a fantastic movie, there may be cheering. Massive stunt that fools everyone - maybe. But cheering/applause at the cinema in the US is certainly not common.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that you have mostly lived in all white areas and or watched movies that appeal primarily to white audiences.

Go watch a Tyler Perry movie or the recent black panther if you want to hear lots of clapping or cheering during a movie.

In the last 15 years yeah. Before that probably somewhat more mixed area, but possibly so on movie choices. I don't go to many 'summer blockbuster' sort of movies any more.

I'll never forget the first time I saw a movie in Atlanta...

Do you not live in a big city? Nearly every movie I see ends in applause.

And when I saw Get Out...

Standing ovation at the end.

This happens every time I go to Japan Society in NYC to see an old Japanese film.

I guess it's because it takes effort to get some of those films in good quality or because someone that represents the restoration company is sometimes present, but I don't understand why we're clapping after seeing Yojimbo or some other common film that has been easily available in HD for quite a long time.

Anyway, "Americans clapping after X" has been a meme for some time.

You've never shouted at the TV then?

This is extremely rare, but when it does happen it's during movies where the applause won't detract from the experience - like, at the final explosion scene in a fun action movie.

> I don't understand why that's seen as appropriate.

Maybe we don't understand why you're not enthusiastic to see like, the Death Star get blown up.

No one here is applauding during like, art flicks.

Not everyone in the US does this. I don't usually. It's odd, honestly, because it seems intended to honor the people who produced the film.. but they aren't there to hear or appreciate it. So.. Not sure?

If the idea is just theatergoers feeling togetherness at experiencing the film with each other, then maybe it makes sense? Yet, it's quite different.

God save our gracious Queen... yet she's not there to hear it, most of the time. It's just in us.

Beats the heck out of shining a 1500 lumens torch everywhere in the theatre though. Or whatever output their iPhones produce, they all seem to be stuck at max brightness.

I found that weird, too. Along with using the term “theatre” for a projection event.

Are we not allowed to use our own words to describe things? I find it weird that in addition to our culture, foreigners are judging our language, seemingly just for fun.

Perhaps they are only using their own words...

I don’t go to sports matches very often in any country, but the american habit of yell-talking when dining out at a restaurant ruins most dinners out in the US for me. That, and televisions in establishments in which they are entirely inappropriate.

Part of the yell-talking is trying to hear each other over the stupidly loud music and TVs in our restaurants. But I've noticed that even abroad Americans are louder than most nationalities when eating out.

I grew up listening to self-hating Americans complaining how American tourists are the worst. Then I worked in a hostel in Prague and realized how loud everyone is, and how everyone swears there's some nationality that's the worst whether it's Brazilians, the British, or the Chinese. They're never the loud obnoxious ones as they sit there sharing their bigotry out loud. It's always some other country.

The only constant is that nobody seems content just taking the upper hand of keeping their stereotypes to themselves. Everyone acts like they've lived 5 years in every country and somehow know how it all crumbles. In reality maybe they've lived in two countries and have had day-visits elsewhere. Hardly grounds for being a master of the nations.

Like someone swearing that <some city> drivers are the worst. Almost guaranteed that they grew up there.

American tourists didn't even have a bad rap where I worked in Prague because you just didn't see them compared to the daily horde of Europeans. By the time you work in the hospitality industry for a few seasonal cycles, you get burned out by the exact same conversations, like people arguing over which nation tourists suck the most. Turns out it's probably just the one you see the most of. In our case, the British. ;)

These days it's on HN where people will post the template: "I took a few day trip to <place> and it's insane how <judgmental thing that people seem to do everywhere>."

Speaking of the national stereotypes and loudness, just put together more than 2 Italian tourists and they're guaranteed to be the loudest in the room, they're just unbeatable... but they do it with a lot of charm, I have to admit...


Full restaurants in Italy are a deafening cacophony. It's an arms race amongst people already accustomed to yelling at eachother on a daily basis.

There are cultures in the world that are more obnoxious and more "impolite" than American in my humble opinion (and I'm not implying anything about Italian culture here). However, I think the distinction of noise in America is that it's a cheap way to make people excited, and it wears people out over time.

Soccer is the most boring sport to watch unless you're hammered or rioting. It would be nice if they had some screens up to distract the fans.

At least soccer keeps in the gameplay (as well as basketball, hockey, etc). Baseball and football are mostly spent waiting for very brief moments of gameplay to happen.

That's entirely your opinion. Tennis and Soccer are perhaps the greatest sports in my opinion. Soccer( football) involves tactics and is played like chess, whereas Tennis is about reading your opponent and is incredibly mental

> That's entirely your opinion.

True, but I was replying to a snarky opinion.

I would argue that baseball, nascar or test series cricket might be more boring sober.

George Bernard Shaw —

'The English are not a very spiritual people, so they invented cricket to give them some idea of eternity. '

Another thing is advertisement pollution. Just notice it when going around in some bigger cities. Ads everywhere, shouting at you and not letting you to rest. Even if you don't look at them, they are still there, talking to you.

This article itself may be paid advertising, perhaps by the Finland marketing board. They even mention VisitFinland.com in the final paragraph.

"Science says quiet is good for you."

"Finland is a place that is quiet."

"You should go to Finland."

It's not even subtle but I didn't see it mentioned in these comments at all.

If it was a paid ad, it was successful, because now I want to go to Finland.

> advertisement pollution

HYPER-REALITY[0] is a fun exploration of ad pollution in AR. Of course one can use similar tech to support quiet.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJg02ivYzSs (2016)

Moving ads in video screens around the city are really annoying. They really 'catch your eye' if you are just letting your eyes to wander.

I have started to look down whenever there are these ads around.

I agree. Pollution (visual, auditory and environmental) will be a serious problem in this century. This constant stimulation plus the daily stress can't be good for our mental health long term.

I was in Salvador, Brazil this summer and was disgusted by how loud everything was, people on the streets carrying speakers playing music, street sellers screaming, cars honking, I prefer the relative quietness of my southern Chile.

Salvador is the capital of the Bahia a state of Brazil. The city has almost 3 millions of people, and it is know for its famous Carnaval parties in the summer. What were you hoping for? A silence place?

The comment did not imply the expectation for the city to be quiet. But once arrived, they discovered the city to be loud. It seems like you misunderstood the point.

Hey, I live in the tranquil and magnificent south too! (Though I'm an immigrant.)

Can't find your contact details – maybe ping me on Twitter (ivmirx) or via email (ivan at qotoqot.com)?

Why did you go to Salvador?

This is the real question.

"Kirste found that two hours of silence per day prompted cell development in the hippocampus."

This was in mice, but if silence turns out to grow neurons in humans too, that will be big news.

I could be far off base here, but I wonder if this could be tied to why humans are generally considered more capable of learning in adolescence - the older someone gets, the more noise they find around them. Lecturers' voices, phones ringing, music, cars and the like are all things you hear progressively more after age 3 or so.

There's a (loosely) related thread under today's article about John von Neumann's assistant[1] about von Neumann's alleged preference for working with loud music playing (something I've seen corroborated in places like Turing's Cathedral, where it was also mentioned that he liked working with noise in general; to what degree any specific music was preferable, I can't discern, though that book mentioned loud marches). It seems there may be some individual (or, at least, situational) variability with how noise affects productivity and thought.

The perceived structure or unstructuredness of the noise in the mind of the listener seems like it also may be relevant, at least from my own experiences - similar to how looking at a wall of code can induce anxiety in novice programmers, but someone familiar with the language and systems employed can see forms and patterns, interpreting what the code actually does and reducing the level of cognitive dissonance that results from looking at it. FWIW, marches can be characterized by a strongly defined and relatively simple structure with a driving 1-2-3-4 pulse that carries the music along and frames our perception of it.

Stanislaw Ulam wrote of von Neumann: "If one has to divide mathematicians, as Poincaré proposed, into two types—those with visual and those with auditory intuition—Johnny perhaps belonged to the latter. In him, the 'auditory sense,' however, probably was very abstract. It involved, rather, a complementarity between the formal appearance of a collection of symbols and the game played with them on the one hand, and an interpretation of their meanings on the other. The foregoing distinction is somewhat like that between a mental picture of the physical chess board and a mental picture of a sequence of moves on it, written down in algebraic notation." [2]

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16411799

[2] http://www.ams.org/journals/bull/1958-64-03/S0002-9904-1958-...

I'm nowhere near as cool as Von Neumann, but I find that loud noisy music helps me work. The noisier the better. It helps to drown out background sounds that catch the attention.

If you hear a door creak or a person speak, that's attention grabbing. Are they speaking to me? Is someone looking for me? Can I add to the conversation?

But with noise you are isolated. The attention grabbing sounds don't come through.

Primary schools are extremely noisy environments IME.

Not just the sounds of noise, but the mental busyness as noise... a child's mind is so much less full.

As adults we get so accustomed to "noise" that we often don't realize it's there. Every time I turn around, I have taxes or some other painful administrative thing to do. That's noise in my head that buzzes quietly at times or very loudly as a deadline approaches.

We have job noise - projects, human conflicts, financial concerns etc. There are home relationship noises - fears, doubts, conflicts, whatever.

This is why I suspect the practitioners of meditation claim to have so much peace and such improved intentional focus: they have learned how to turn down the background noise in their minds.

> This is why I suspect the practitioners of meditation claim to have so much peace and such improved intentional focus: they have learned how to turn down the background noise in their minds.

I play Chess, I'm not good but when I'm playing for an hour or two I completely don't think about anything else at all, it's mentally draining but in a good way (I find it the mental equivalent of a long bike ride).

In fact my perfect day would be two hours of chess and a three hour bike ride then a nap.

Perhaps I was a more troubled child, but my mind was constantly full of buzzing, illogical anxieties when I was a kid. Only now have I been able to outgrow them, and my mind is much more soothed.

There's good buzz and bad buzz. Or maybe I should say constructive and destructive. It's possible for the mind to be so flooded with ideas and solutions and other creative thoughts that it can be difficult to focus and complete any one thing before the next demands attention.

Either way, gaining some control or having some tool to choose when to quiet the noise can be very beneficial.

Do you find that childhood is quiet?!

I think it's been well observed for centuries (before cars and phones and cities) that learning slows down with age.

Anyone reading this Nautilus article should also read the counter-point article from 2016


Lewis Black, a comedian, couches his praise of noise in a cynical one-liner, noting dryly, “The reason I live in New York City is because it’s the loudest city on the planet Earth. It’s so loud I never have to listen to any of the shit that’s going on in my own head.”

> Here’s how Kirste made sense of the results. She knew that “environmental enrichment,” like the introduction of toys or fellow mice, encouraged the development of neurons because they challenged the brains of mice. Perhaps the total absence of sound may have been so artificial, she reasoned—so alarming, even—that it prompted a higher level of sensitivity or alertness in the mice. Neurogenesis could be an adaptive response to uncanny quiet.

Just a word of caution: Experiments that work in mice don’t necessarily work in humans [1]. These findings are very preliminary, although interesting.

[1] http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/crux/2016/11/01/the-troubl...

Taking this another level, and, where I thought the article was originally going, there is an internal dialog going on even with external silence. An aspect of vipassana meditation (and probably others) is when that internal noise silences.

That's what I was expecting as well. What Landmark folk call the voice in your head. Which is always interpreting, telling stories, and so on. It's often hard to hear what other people are saying, because that inner voice is so loud. But with practice, it eventually shuts up, most of the time.

Which starts to happen after the third day of 12+ hours per day sitting 10-day retreat.

During silence, the brain consolidates, much as muscles strengthen after exertion, not during.

This consolidation consists in making information fit together "better", by seeking patterns and other redundancies - resulting in both compression and insight. A role also assigned to sleep.

It's more basic than intellectual consolidation, but things like the concept of a chair. (Not the philosphical concept of a chair, but some particular person's actual concept).

But it also explains why we have spontaneous insight when disengaged, e.g. in the shower.

Attention has now been made a commodity, so good luck finding peace and quiet if you don't have the money to buy it

I feel like this can't be said enough. Various kinds of minimalism, which are really just different ways of being left in peace, are now pleasures that are only reachable by the privileged classes. So of course these pleasures find a lot of enthusiasm here. Not that I'm any less enthusiastic than most here, but we shouldn't forget that out industry contains some of the worst offenders when it comes to distraction and interruption.

I wish hotels would be graded on how quiet they are.

"...and a vibrant cultural capital the size of Nashville, Tennessee..." ahh yes, as a finn, I know all the us cities/states and their size and instantly compare finnish cities to us counterparts. Indeed I do sir.

I do a lot of meditation and trance work, and I can say that trance is all about training yourself to ignore things that demand your attention. Both the body and the mind will issue such demands.

Stimulation becomes a "resource," one that you want to get rid of as fast as you gather it. But the easiest way to get rid of it is to not gather it in the first place.

As you get deeper into trance, other things you're not so skilled at ignoring start to make themselves known. You need to learn how to ignore those too. Otherwise you just don't have a whole lot of fun.

The brain can ignore practically anything. Many psychological disorders involve the brain not being able to ignore things that most people can ignore, such as OCD or tinnitus. If I'm in a weird state, tinnitus can become really awful. But most of the time it's not a thing. I submit that 90% of tinnitus cases could be solved with some guided meditation, and 9% of the other 10% needs the attention of a TMJ specialist. Maybe 10% of 10%.

I went to Target when they (briefly) came to Canada and was surprised and delighted by the absence of music in the store. I'm sure some people were weirded out by that, but I found it refreshing and peaceful.

They were also a forerunner in not using the loudspeaker system to page various employees.

Wait, this is a joke, right?? : https://i.imgur.com/LsjFa8O.png

(Ad tossed up immediately upon opening the article)

Protect your ears and don’t get tinnitus. Some people ruin their futures (aspiring musician or audio engineer).

The voices in my head may or may not agree with the voices in your head.

For some reason I intensely I dislike that "Silence, please" slogan. Maybe it's lost in translation, but to me it comes across as scolding.

I actually want to go to Finland and make a lot of noise right now. Maybe I've been browsing https://reddit.com/r/firstworldanarchists too much lately.

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