Over the years I suppose I have had the usual exposure to pain, noise and depression and like almost everyone else I have sought to avoid them as much as possible. There is a category of people that seem to seek out these annoyances and I encountered some of them last week in The Good Life pub here in Bend. My problem (is it a problem?) is that I don’t like noise and when any sustained sound is above the volume of normal conversation it irritates me. Back at the Mediterraneum coffee shop in Berkeley, where I practically resided for fifty years, I usually stuffed small balls of tightly wadded napkins in my ears. I loved the conversation but hated the hard walled echo of fifty people yelling at each other. Most popular bars have a similarly noisy environment and that’s probably the reason I never became an alcoholic – that and the simple fact the conversation was usually dumber and I don’t like feeling buzzy.
My friend Dick Coulter said he became an alcoholic because it made the other people’s conversation more interesting. The drunker he got the more fascinating their conversations became. That can happen in Berkeley. He said he lived close to Max Scheer’s Steppenwolf so he could crawl home. Unfortunately, his occupation required being exposed to very noisy power equipment and he eventually went deaf. That had some strange effects in that he could no longer hear the conversations and drinking more didn’t help make the people’s conversation interesting so he quit drinking.
My annoyance with noise is so severe that I actually keep a big pair of shooters’ ear protectors at my desk and am actually wearing them as I write this post even though the room is quiet. I don’t know why some people like noise, but some people I know have a radio or TV going constantly. Those aren’t so loud the volume bothers me, when I am with them, but the alien mental stimulation distracts me from my own thoughts and perhaps that is what bothers me. Perhaps some people like to have other people’s thoughts going through their minds, but not me – I like to know what I am thinking. They might be listening to other people because their own natural thoughts coming from within are depressing and having a constant stream of media pundits blaring non-sense distracts them from their own repetitive thoughts. If those thoughts are painful then it would make sense to keep them out of current consciousness by having a media blasting them out. It becomes a cure for depression, with its associated pain and at the small cost of a moderate level of noise.
I am reminded of the 40s song by Johnny Mercer
You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between
You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium’s
Liable to walk upon the scene
Those lyrics don’t quite get to what to do to accomplish those desirable ends, but the goals are valid. Over the years I have tried many experiments to elevate my mood. One of the experiments was, when in a somber mood to put a smile on my face before I walked into the Mediterraneum coffee shop. That trick was similar to one of the lines in the 40s song, by Nat King Cole There’s a smile on my face for the whole human race – Why it’s almost like being in love. (at 20 seconds). Unfortunately, although it makes a great song, it doesn’t work in very well real life because as soon as conversation begins one soon forgets to smile and the gloom returns. I found a better technique to overcome my blues and help other people too, was to actively try to improve their mood and ignore my own. I could maintain my thoughts on that longer and as my friends’ mood improved mine did too. In a web search I just discovered these lines:
Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others,
cannot keep it from themselves.
James M. Barrie
That sentiment is similar but it doesn’t have anything specific and we need specific things which are easy to do and can become automatic habits. It’s easy to remember to smile when encountering a friend and to be concerned and helpful to them and their needs.
Being friendly and kind to those you meet helps you be friendly and kind to yourself.