I was reading yet another piece on how cell phones (in particular) are destroying our society. It purported to be an article on quiet places, but it was really about a place where people aren’t able to have cell service and WiFi because it’s near an observatory that uses radio waves and other services would interfere with that work.

It obviously wasn’t quiet, because there were cars around, except at the observatory itself (where spark plugs can cause trouble, too).

I also read a piece about summer visitors in a rural place in France who are trying to get rid of their neighbor’s rooster because they want “quiet.”

A few years back I went hiking in the Ventana Wilderness. Get far enough into that back country (and you’d better be a well-equipped and skilled backpacker to do it), and you will hear few noises of civilization. Maybe a plane will fly overhead.

Your cell phone won’t work. But you will hear sounds. Frogs. Bird. Crickets. The Carmel River.

It’s not “quiet.” It might even disturb those who hate roosters. The frogs are loud. But it doesn’t have the external noises of civilization. It was glorious to be free of those sounds for awhile.

The article on the cell-phone-free place was about people who took pride in being out of touch and isolated. That attitude annoys me. It’s like taking pride in never reading a book or never visiting another country or never trying a new food.

I love being able to research a subject starting with a few clicks and perhaps ending at my public library or neighborhood bookstore. I love being able to stay connected to long-time friends and to “meet” others in far-flung locales.

I also love walking down the urban streets and meeting neighbors and dogs and cats and admiring yards and only bringing my phone out to snap a picture of something that catches my eye.

Stuffed bear in tree

And I love getting off in the wilder parts of our country, seeing the gorgeous sights and enjoying a world that isn’t driven by human noise.

The real solution is not to always be isolated (except for the few who really are hermits) or always connected, but to find a balance between those things. It’s very much like the balance between time alone and time with others.

Balance is a tricky thing, because there’s the personal balance — how much contact one needs with others, both in person and electronically, and how much time one needs alone — and the balance of dealing decently with the other people in the world while still having personal time. Finding that balance might be one of the most important things we can do.

As for the privileged who want to live in the perfect place and then try to make everyone else conform to their idea of perfect, I have no patience with them. You put up with your neighbors in city and country. If you move into an urban neighborhood, you expect city noise and even the loud bar on the corner. If you’re in the country, there will be farming noise. And smells. (And while some excesses of agribusiness, like feed lots, need to be put out of business, that’s a different issue from the ordinary noises and smells of rural life.)

Living with other people, whatever the neighborhood, requires balance.

Balance. I keep coming back to balance. Here’s the thing about balance: it’s never going to be perfect. You will fall sometimes. The trick is to learn how to fall as safely as possible and how to pick yourself back up or ask for the right kind of help when you need it.

You don’t want to stay home in a chair because you’re afraid of falling. You don’t want to be isolated from the rest of the world because you’re afraid of being too connected. And if you want the advantages of the urban or rural lifestyles, you have to put up with some of the shortcomings (and save your complaints for the real problems).

Find your balance.



Balance — 2 Comments