I’ve come to realise the blissfulness of silence.
In a world where everyone at the table is rushing to talk instead of listen, where articles posted on your Facebook feed are most probably numbered and designed to bait you with over-promising headlines, and where people at your table keep going on and on about those very articles, it may be high time to take a sound sabbatical. To get in touch with what’s inside us rather than what’s around us.
Off the cuff, I can name a few types of noises — ambient, distracting, and white noise. Most audible noise we experience daily are very likely of the distracting kind. Ever sat too close to people in a cafe, so close that you can’t help but unwillingly “eavesdrop” on their conversation?
Music with a catchy beat and sing-along lyrics, ringing phones, commercials on music streaming services, the neighbour’s incessantly barking dog, your own barking dog — these are examples of noise that disrupt our flow of thought.
They need to be rid of so that you can finally begin to hear your own thoughts again. So that you can actually finish 20-minute jobs in 20 minutes. So that you can regain focus and clarity in whatever you’re thinking of doing — be it planning for a business expansion, a surprise party, or writing an email.
How then can tranquility be ushered back into our lives while immersed in noisy environments?
Fight fire with fire
You can try changing noise types. In other words, kill bad noise with good noise.
To drown out distracting noises (dogs barking), try playing ambient (gibberish cafe talk) or white (waterfalls) noise.
For good ambient noise, try Coffitivity. Coffitivity is an online ambient noise streaming site that does precisely one thing — recreate the ambience of a cafe through your earphones. With a decent pair of in-ear earphones and a smartphone or laptop with Wi-Fi, you can sit in the middle of Chinatown and still have a clear mind.
Conversely, at times when silence isn’t really helping, a little bit of gibberish words that cannot be made out may just help break the monotony and give you a creativity boost.
For days where you need to be extra calm, head over to 8tracks and search for “white noise”. 8tracks is a brilliant music playlist streaming service that is both free of charge and free of commercials. It is where closet audiophiles of all sorts (yes, those who love the sound of waves crashing onto sandy beaches inclusive) share their favourite playlists with the world. As a starting point, try this.
Sono — for ultimate selective listening
Time to let you in on a little secret. Ok, it’s probably not a secret since Rudolf Stefanich became a James Dyson Award finalist, but anyhow, here it is: Sono.
Sono is a noise-cancellation device stuck onto the window at home — you know, those thin glass sheets separating your sanctuary from the noisy streets. It’s designed to be stuck onto the window surface directly, and it works the same way as existing noise-cancellation technologies — by identifying and emitting identical sounds as those incoming, neutralising them.
The device is also a dream to look at, if the real thing turns out to be similar to its concept design. Sono resembles the smart thermostat, Nest, built by former Apple executive Tony Fadell — simple, understated, and powerful.
Apart from being able to cancel noise, Sono’s creator is working on enabling selective noise throughput. Love the songs that birds in your neighbourhood sings? Let those in. If you think birds scream rather than sing, block them right out.
This is a dream come true for those who have come to realise just how intense the noise pollution has become in cities. Noise cancellation is great, but noise filtering is just swell.
Imagine how much more mindful and productive we can be with this.
Oh wait, I forgot. You can’t do that, because you still can’t focus. Because you’re still stuck in this mess.
For now, we’ll have to settle with a good pair of in-ears and Coffitivity, 8tracks, or a trip to the library.