For Release July 4, 2004

What A Noisy World We Live In

by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent

A few weeks ago, my wife and I woke up in our tent on the banks of the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. It was our last morning on the river having spent the previous week rafting the entire length of the Grand Canyon. The only thing we could hear were bats overhead, birds in the shrubs and the quiet relaxing sound of the river. There was no radio or television blaring away. No phones, no cell phones, no traffic, nothing other than a few quiet subdued sounds of nature.

Twelve hours later I was standing in line for a popular restaurant in a popular casino hotel on the strip of Las Vegas. The noise was deafening! I wanted to go back to the quiet serenity of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River. That's when the little light bulb went on inside my head. All the noises that I was hearing were man made noises. Loud and abrupt noises meant to get our attention. And for them to be effective, each one has to be louder than the last.

A week without radio or television or telephone or computer was actually much easier to take than I thought it would be. It was very relaxing and probably re-sensitized my ears which made the sounds of Las Vegas seem even that much louder. We live in a very noisy world and we have wound up paying the price.

We are so use to the sights and sounds of technology and the 21st century that we find it hard to not be around them. We are so used to something or someone else entertaining us, that we don't know how to entertain ourselves. Or more importantly how to let the natural world around us entertain us. What could be better than the natural world around us?

It takes no batteries and you don't even have to plug it in. But you do have to pay attention. Nature doesn't rely on fast moving ever changing video clips with a percussion heavy sound track to grab your attention. Nature is much more subtle and the casual observer is going to miss much of it.

You'll miss the tappity click of the lizard's toes as it scrambles across the rocks in search of an insect or to escape you. You won't notice the tell tale tracks in the sand that show you where the snake, the lizard or the small rodent has gone. If you're waiting for the fast paced video clip you'll look right past the ever changing colors of the day as the sun rises and then sets. And if you don't shut off the radio and the television and your mouth, you'll never hear the little clicky chips of the bats flying overhead from sundown til sunup.

The 4th of July weekend is a festival of sights and sounds. Parades, fireworks and entertainment of all kinds rely on sight and sound stimulation. So maybe before the holiday weekend is over, you need to allow yourself some quiet time and allow nature to make its own counterpoint. Find someplace away from people and away from man made noise. Take off your watch and ignore convention. Take the time to listen to nature and observe what it has to say and show.

Our hearing is a wonderful sense. But we ignore it and we are destroying it on a daily basis with all this artificial, man made clatter. Before its too late, take the time to find one square inch of silence for even 15 minutes. And after you've enjoyed that 15 minutes of quiet, start listening to the real world. For the real world speaks more powerfully and more beautifully, than the man made world ever can. You just have to listen.


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