NOISE IN MODERN LIFE
Civilization has conferred many benefits on man but it has also created a number of problems for him. There is first of all the problem of environmental pollution. The rapid pace of industrialization has made this pollution almost a galloping disease and if nothing is done to stem it, mankind will find its existence threatened as much by this pollution as by the atom bomb. Another malady of this civilization is the obliquity of noise. The skies, the earth and the seas are all echoing to the hell-noises that emanate from the different engines that man in his folly has devised. The Babel of noises is a phenomenon, which is a by-product of his much-vaunted civilization. There are, first of all, the noises that descend from the skies. The aero planes whir and whiz. The zoom across the sky with terrific speed producing in the process a jangle that grates on the human ear. Particularly distressing are the sound-barriers, which give one the impression that the sky is being rent into two. If one happens to reside in the neighbourhood of a hanger, life becomes particularly intolerable. It is not the whirr of a moment; it is a long-drawn-out spell of grating sound which may any time rupture the eardrum. Speed of course but at which terrible cost.
The noises in the sea are luckily confined to the seacoast but even so it is so disturbing and so rest-killing. In clearing the harbour the ship makes a hell of noise. There is moaning of the bar, as Tennyson puts it.
But the noise that comes from the trains and engines is a thing that is no less alarming. The shrill whistle is like the wild shriek of a giant that strikes terror into every heart. There are colonies situated on the periphery of the railway tracks, which shudder under the impact of the engine-whistle. When the train passes the entire area quakes literally as well as figuratively. The residents of these colonies know not what nightly slumber is. Their rest is a halfway between sleep and waking.
But probably the most torturing and the most wearisome noise is that produced by trucks and cars, motorcycles and scooters. As soon as the day dawns their movement begins, sounding the horns, now bumping, now skidding, now causing an accident and now just escaping one-these vehicles are a constant source of disturbance. Civilization could not have done worse to man. Man’s speed has multiplied fivefold, tenfold, twenty-fold but his peace and tranquility have disappeared like the ghosts in Macbeth. The jolting bullock-cart may be very slow and leisurely but at least it emits very mild music when the wheels traverse along the ruts.
There are noises that come from the machines of man’s devising. His own noises may be added there to make the story complete. The civilized man is noisier than the barbarian. At every comer in a town there is a gathering, big or small, political, religious or social, and a street-orator, with a mike or without it, shouts, at the top of his voice, thumps the table to make a point and dins into the ears of the audience that the trifles that he passes off are the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth. His loud voice is his argument.
Add to this noisy orchestra, the rattling sound of the marketplace and the rancorous tones of the Stock-Exchange. Everybody appears to be competing with the other in raising his pitch. It is a cut-throat competition where the prize goes to the person who thunders most.
What is the impact of these noises on the mind of the modem man? Just as the environmental pollution is undermining the health of the modem man and making him a victim of a shoal of ailments, the noisiness of life is making him distracted and weak at the central nexus. He lacks concentration. Higher pursuits like physics and metaphysics, philosophy and sociology are beyond his ken. He can go no more beyond the superficialities of life.
His is a grasshopper mind. It cannot perch on any flower or plant for a long time. The noises distract his attention. He has not learnt how to tame this gigantic monster, noise. The amount of noise, which any one can bear undisturbed stands in inverse proportion to his mental capacity may therefore, be regarded as a pretty fair measure of it. Noise is a torture to all intellectual people.
Gone, therefore, are the days when people devoted years and decades in the pursuit of knowledge. They had their closets or quiet hamlets where they could carry on their pursuits undisturbed and uninterrupted by noises. In the seclusion of the forests and the quietness of groves the sages of old had their transcendental meditation and wrestled with the mysteries of existence. Today, however, even the villages are not immune from this noise. It has grown all pervasive.