Take Away Noise to Achieve Health
It is the year 280 B.C. The architect Sostratus is putting the finishing touch on the colossal lighthouse that now stands completed outside the harbor of Alexandria, magnificently rising toward the sky. He carefully carves his name in the marble on the salt-sprayed foundation. Then he covers the letters with mortar. In the mortar he carves King Ptolemy’s name. The king is pleased — he gets immediate honor from the masterwork.
The lighthouse would be considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and stood like an eternal flame at the entrance to the Alexandria harbor for over a thousand years. Not long after construction the mortar with the king’s name crumbled away. Instead the architect’s name emerged on the shiny marble!
We Live in Constant Noise
There has always been a struggle between the short-term and the long-term. But seldom has the short-term perspective had such an advantage as in our time. Breaking news. Momentary images. Quick messages and updates. Constant background noise.
This ongoing noise becomes like ripples on the surface of the sea that make it hard to make out the long waves. It is like brief disturbances in a radio broadcast where we don’t hear the underlying message. The noise is made up of all the little things that constantly poke at our attention and make it hard to listen seriously to ourselves and others. It can be the short-term enjoyment of one more cookie, or the distraction of TV that prevents us from taking a walk.
Noise Can Disturb Health
Too much noise can affect health. We can easily search in vain for a footing in one of the simplified solutions, a “quick fix,” that streams past in the daily media flood. But truly healthy habits are about prioritizing what is meaningful in the long term, finding a stable ground.
It can take time to dial down the noise, like when you’re fumbling with an old radio. But it is a liberating relief once the noise disappears. Like when a buzzing fan is turned off and with surprise you are brought to life by the silence and your attention is sharpened.
Often it is only then that we start hearing ourselves in depth and get space for the essential questions — those that like Sostratus’ lighthouse illuminate the way from far off.
How can you reduce the noise in your everyday life?
1. Schueller, S et al. Pursuit of pleasure, engagement, and meaning: Relationships to subjective and objective measures of well-being. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 2010. 5(4), 253–263.