№ 280: Noise

This post originally appeared on a previous personal blog. I’m republishing it here with the original post date. 


Noise gets a bad rap. I suspect most people hear the word noise and imagine something unpleasant. I hear the word noise and I get interested. Noise certainly can be unpleasant, but it isn’t necessarily so. It can also be stimulating and liberating.

The sound of the universe at work isn’t music. It’s noise. The cosmos produces a terrific noise as it grinds away. The heavenly bodies aren’t singing. Rather, they’re thrashing out an incomprehensible, unimaginable, overwhelming cacophony on instruments we cannot comprehend.

What’s with all the praise?, you might scoff, It’s just noise. But that’s where you’d be wrong. It’s never just noise.

This image was from about February 18th, on the eve of the Chinese new year. What you can’t see here are the thousands of firecrackers and unbelievably loud fireworks going off behind me, as close as twenty feet away. It was the most spectacular noise I’ve ever heard.  It was overwhelming, it was immersive, it was all-encompassing. I’ve never thrust my head into the crashing insanity of a class VI rapids, but I suspect there might be some basic similarities between that experience and the fireworks.

Immersed in the noise, the mind does a surprising thing. It begins to clear. This clarity isn’t self-evident at first, but manifests itself as an odd serenity. It’s when the noise stops that the clarity jumps into the foreground of experience. It is in the sonic vacuum left by the noise that the real quiet is found. And it is deafening.

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