I think the fundamental problem with noisy people is not that they're inconsiderate, but that they don't have any train of thought to interrupt, and they thus don't realize the havoc they're wreaking.
When I was living in Providence, working on On Lisp, I told my loud but well-meaning neighbors that I was writing a hard computer book, and that made them be quiet. Ordinary people can understand that you need quiet if you're working on some specific, hard task, like doing math homework. What they don't grasp is that someone would want their mind to work that way all the time, as a matter of course.
You've probably already had your fill of argument for the day, but I think that assuming that noisy people don't have a train of thought to interrupt is a little bit uncharitable. (I'm assuming the best interpretation of what you said, which is that they don't have a train of thought while they're being noisy.) I've met enough people who can think and consider things while maintaining a non-stop chatter that now I think it's just another of those quirks of personality: I require solitude to think about things, they do not.
On the other hand, a mathematician he knew was able to do lots of mental things while counting that Feynman couldn't, and wasn't able to do other mental things while counting that Feynman could, because the other guy counted visually.
I picked an ordering of foods and imagined the transition from one to the next.
Touch is easier, since the ordering is already there. Just look at your fingers and imagine a sensation in each finger as you count. Easiest is to actually move your fingers though.
When I'm writing, I can't listen to music with lyrics or podcasts. That's not too surprising, since I'm obviously using the parts of my brain related to processing language for my work, so I can't process language in the background.
When I'm doing grunt-level programming or debugging, I can listen to music with words or podcasts.
But when I'm doing architecture-level program design, I can't listen to music with lyrics or podcasts. For me, this kind of thinking is too similar to writing.
In it he points out how some people with Alzheimers or other degenerative brain damage can use familiar music to co-ordinate a sort of 'flow' a rhythm of activity.
When I am coding it is like this. I can put on a familiar record that know back to front and then suddenly it is over and I haven't heard any of it but it has marshalled my flow for me.
Put on an unfamiliar playlist or a 'radio' style thing from last.fm (or the radio even) where I don't know what is going to be played next) and it trashes my flow.
So to get stuff out of Spotify I have to make and learn playlists (as it trashes the order of all the LP's which I have burnt into my head from years of listening to them on vinyl....)
Trying to count visually is almost impossible, I lose track before reaching twenty. As a friend of mine put this, “I can't count sheep to sleep because they are always cheating.”
Ask yourself, "how do I know I am breathing?": there is some physical sensation that tells you that you're breathing, whether it's a whistling noise in your nose, the feeling of air rushing past the tip of your nose or the back of your throat, the feeling of wanting to return to the neutral position that your ribs give you during a deep breath.
For a lot of people, just one of these sensations is the most dominant one. If you can pick one, just lie quietly and concentrate on it and notice it every time you take a breath.
This process is more about noticing sensation than doing any kind of cognition, so I find it very useful when trying to take a mid-day nap (I haven't had trouble sleeping at the end of the day since I had children, funny that).
"mind racing before sleep"? If you smoke, try not to smoke at least 1 hr before you go to bed.
One disturbing phenomenon I've discovered: When I use these ear muffs to block other people's noise, I gradually get more sensitive to their noise. My brain gets weaker at filtering out the distractions if I go too long without practice. I discovered that I had to force myself to NOT artificially block the noise for a few hours every few days to maintain an ability to block out the distraction in circumstances where I was UNABLE to artificially block the noise. Resistance to noisy distraction is a perceptual skill that can atrophy without practice.
In my case I've made a concerted effort to remove all aural advertising from my life -- this is rather easier nowadays, when it's trivial to watch videos and listen to music without ever consuming broadcast media.
But now when I do accidentally encounter normal TV/radio, it's amazingly grating and completely invades my head. I was in an airport in the US with TVs everywhere, and it was like trying to do work next to a fistfight. Commercial jingles pop into my head and stay there, when I'm unlucky enough to encounter them.
I think the problem is compounded by the fact that modern advertising is calculated to break through the normal deluge of attention-seeking noise that people are drenched in, so if you are not, in fact, already swimming in other noise, the sudden bursts are overwhelming.
When I was living in Providence,
Most days I spend my entire productive workday in a coffee shop across campus, precisely because it is loud and busy. Only with the surrounding noise can I avoid being distracted by specific things. The environment is so noisy that it allows me to ignore to entirely.
For me, when I'm able to concentrate, the background noise is irrelevant. I simply do not hear it.
As much as I love the mountains and forests, I've come to realise that I like the idea of solitude a lot more than the reality of it. And so I find myself living in large cities, constantly seeking noise because it's the only way I can find peace.
White noise, and ambient "study" music is great -- it's like a null placeholder, I can focus and I remember hearing nothing instead of hearing silence.
I have taken the quiet attitude home as well. I used to have the radio or TV on all day long when I was working on my computer. Now I turn everything off when I work at home.
Then again, that's focussed noise where I can easily pick out entire conversations. By contract, the coffee shop I'm in right now is full of a wild cacophony. So much noise that none of it forms a coherent picture. This is trivial to ignore.
In the end it probably comes down mostly to what you're willing to make work for you. I find a mostly silent room maddening enough that I'm unlikely to ever give it a try.
The office manager ruled with an iron fist, fortunately, and she really didn't care if someone didn't like her, so these folks got the boot. She saved that quiet room, as far as I'm concerned.
A crowded open plan office, with interesting and relevant conversations going on all around me, is detrimental to my productivity.
As someone who prefers absolute solitude for reading and writing, I can be very introverted, and I completely understand wanting things to be quiet. However, I think it's mistaken to assume all noisy people don't have any train of thought to interrupt. I think it's just as possible to be mindfully extroverted as it is to be mindlessly introverted. As for percentages and stuff, I'm at a loss; my bias is to assume mindlessness is more common than mindfulness regardless. I guess the difference is that mindless extroversion tends to be more obvious than mindless introversion.
The noisy folks tend to be a lot less effective (in particular, I mean those who chatter half the day away, and whose mistakes I was constantly fixing).
But... with their noise and disregard for my own concentration, they dragged down my effectiveness. (And my peace of mind and ultimately, health.)
One reason I now advocate -- strongly -- removing oneself from such environments as soon as possible.
I received a strong, sustained, and somewhat domineering message that I was the one who needed to adapt. And, being young and inexperienced and without much power, this caused both some significant self-doubt and great frustration.
I can't make up what I lost. But I can advise others to avoid similar loss.
I'm not sure I understand what you're saying: are you saying that noisy people don't think (or are stupid)?
I'm a "quiet one" too, but I think noisy people are the opposite of "thinkless"; they appear to be afraid of their own mind and what it could tell them about the insignificance of the world in general and their life in particular (anyone's life).
What they want is distraction; they use noise as a lid over an even more tumultuous and noisy torrent of depressing thoughts.
Why? That assumes that being alone with your own thoughts is somehow good for everyone. I've done it--it's not all it's cracked up to be, IMHO. I believe there's enough variation in the way people's brains are wired up that it's not really possible to say "this specific thing that works for me is also good for your own mood/well-being/thoughts".
I don't feel mentally stimulated by sitting around in nature or by meditating. It doesn't "clear my head" or make me look at my life in a new interesting perspective. It doesn't calm me in any meaningful way or anything like that. I mostly just feel annoyed that I'm not getting something accomplished, whether that "something" is actively creative or passively consumptive (as much as something passively consumptive can be "accomplished").
If that kind of thing works for you, that's great! I'm sure I take great mental pleasure from things you consider meaningless :-).
A common problem for people who can not be without stimuli is that they can not disassociate from their thoughts.
That means just looking at your thoughts or whatever other inner processes are going on and letting them pass by without getting attached to them.
This is what you train when you meditate and it does not come over night, but it gives you the ability to gain more control over yourself and quiet time or time you use to meditate becomes rather entertaining...
There are a lot of scientifically proven benefits for doing meditation as well.
Doing this is a lifestyle choice. There is nothing wrong if you enjoy drinking sugary soda drinks every day if that's you choice that's what it is.
I do meditation since several years and also studied the science related to it. This is meditation in a nutshell for me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sspY43lxqhE
However, I don't think that's a bad thing. I don't know how their minds work, so I just assume that we think and process the world a little differently. Because of that, I try to be sensitive to their needs/desires, and they do the same for me.
It's not a statement of who's "better," just how each person is a little bit different (for me anyway).
Actually, I've had it pointed out that you'll see people crinkling bags, shuffling feet, coughing and clearing throats, and so on if you're in an otherwise silent room. I know that I'm guilty of it sometimes, and when I stay mindful and clamp down on it, I notice someone else picks up the slack.
I must say that this choice of words rather took me aback as well. The problem is, it's difficult to call someone breathtakingly arrogant (which was my first reaction) when they have so much to be arrogant about!
I'd love to see some more insight on this from pg.
Edit: It's since occurred to me that pg may have meant at that particular moment rather than lacking a train of thought in a general sense. If that's the case, my comment is unjustified - apologies.
That's plausible; however, the conscious brain is constantly thinking / wandering / conjecturing about the past and the future, so it's next to impossible to not have a train of thought while you're awake. (If you have years and years of training as a zen master, maybe; if not, not).
Therefore, saying that people don't have a train of thought at a specific point in time is a little like saying they don't have a brain.
The rest of the post from PG would tend to confirm this: "ordinary people can understand" (...) "what they don't grasp".
Everyone, even "ordinary" or "normal" people have their trains of thought and to belittle them by suggesting otherwise...
I notice this mostly with the younger generation these days (young women especially). They literally feel the compulsion to always have some sort external stimuli coming in, usually in the form of a constant stream of music from their phones/MP3 players. I remember most of my ex girlfriends being like this, they could rarely be alone with their own thoughts for more than a few minutes.
I genuinely think that a lot of people are afraid of introspection and quiet these days, in fear of what they might find if they look inside themselves or just absorb the world around them in an unprocessed and unaltered fashion. It is just easier to shut down any self reflection our minds might attempt with a constant stream of junk stimulation from the outside.
ADD is becoming a huge problem these days and people's attention spans just keep getting shorter and shorter.
Similarly, I watch TV at night to dull the inner monologue in my head so I can fall asleep. If I don't my stupid mind fixates on the most negative aspects of my life (even when things are going well) and I stay awake for hours feeling horrible. TV, music, and reading can distract me and let me fall asleep peacefully.
The solution was surprisingly simple. When I wanted to stop the internal music, I focused on ambient noise. The leaves rustling in the trees. Passing cars: their tires on the pavement, brakes, engine, the exhaust note. There are quite a few things to notice. While focusing, the music stopped.
At first it took great deliberate effort to quiet the music in my head. But eventually it just went away, within a matter of weeks. I no longer need to exert effort, I have conscious control over whether I want to replay a song in my head, or just have silence.
My meditation teacher Gil Fronsdal thought of it. He's a genius.
What I prefer over TV for killing the brain noise before sleep is, again, music.
Music is the best.
I can say that forcing silence upon myself resulted in a "mental withdrawal", if you will. It wasn't very pleasant, the music gets louder and louder and quite unbearable at times. That said, I did indeed see some effects at the end, in a form of periods of silence in my mind(which was kind of spectacular for me; there's some music in the back of my head at all times). My opinion is that even longer period of non-listening would yield even bigger results.
I really recommend the experience(the deprivation, I mean; the Vipassana part is also cool, but kind of orthogonal). Even though it's very demanding, you can really put things into perspective and learn a lot about how your body reacts to things. It also gives you a completely different outlook on stuff like solitary confinement.
I don't mean to sound like I'm complaining. I love music and it's been a huge part of my life since I can remember (and I'm old).
But from my experience, I don't buy your theory. I think I'm just wired different than people that seek out quiet places.
Just stop when the brain starts picking up from there: "My stomach feels empty (BECAUSE YOU HAVEN'T EATEN AND WHENEVER YOU DO YOU EAT TRASH)" you just stop the thought on the BE and focus on the next inner or outer thing or on the next number of the count. When you can't stop the thought on time, just ignore it and move on.
At first is hard, especially with a noisy brain, but it gets easier and easier.
Be it the noise of the ventilation system, or car horns outside, true silence rarely exists.
That said, when I am at home there is little else except for the sound of my computer fans as I read a book. But when I am at work, I most certainly choose to control what background noises I listen to. Music is most certainly a part of that.
As for stimulus shutting down self reflection, I find that quite the opposite is true. Different forms of stimulus encourage different forms of self reflection.
Can't find the article right now, but they once put people in a completely soundproof room; their minds started to make up sounds and increased their hearing sensitivity to the point where they could hear their own muscles move. I believe the longest one lasted 45 minutes.
So... If he had a sufficiently good methodology which proved his assertions, they would cease to be sexist and you politically correct lot would approve of them? Somehow I doubt it.
BTW: Are you proud not to be in the politically correct "lot"? All it really amounts to is trying not to be unnecessarily hateful or demeaning to one another.
I see. It's good to know that employers are now free to throw out all applications from Ethiopians, because of the fact that the average IQ in Ethiopia is 63.
> BTW: Are you proud not to be in the politically correct "lot"? All it really amounts to is trying not to be unnecessarily hateful or demeaning to one another.
Please. Political correctness amounts to much more than that.
I.e., if you're interviewing an individual for a job, that means you're evaluating that individual's ability to fulfill the job requirements.
You'll get a hell of a lot better mileage out of, say, talking to them about complicated problems than you could ever get from even the average IQ in their family, let alone country or some other ridiculously large group like that. No need to get into the discussion of how valid that number is -- it's irrelevant to a job interview.
To the original point -- if maybe some large-scale study does show that young women tend to make more "social noise" than young men, I'm still having trouble imagining ways that might be relevant when noisy people enter a room I'm in.
Later on I developed some sort of tolerance to the constant noise. Anyway I had the choice to move to a city or to the countryside last year when I decided to go back to Europe and the absolute silence at 3am out here, next to the mountains in southern Germany, is amazing.
I once have read an article about introverts vs. extroverts and the articles conclusion was that extroverts need to communicate with others in order to reflect on their ideas, while introverts tend to do reflection with themselves.
So, according to this article, if you tell extroverts to be quiet you are actually interrupting their train of thoughts.
Being an introvert myself, I would have never come to this conclusion on my own.
Maybe not quite so peaceful :)
Edit: My mistake, I'm normally on http://raining.fm/
I hope you enjoy it, I know I for one find it hard to focus with music in my ears, I've even tried Beethoven at one point but nothing gave me the right vibe.
And so is the fundamental problem with quiet people that they're hyper-sensitive, judgemental assholes?
A more polite, and perhaps more accurate rendering would be "Many noisy people work out what they think by saying it." To some of them the introvert who much prefers to think matters out before speaking may seem as thoughtless as they do to the introvert.
they don't have any train of thought to interrupt