What’s your favourite sound? Mine’s the waves breaking when I’m walking on the beach, surely the most relaxing sound on earth. Or it might be Baby Girl practicing her new favourite word (this week it’s “boof”, spoken in the manner of someone quietly practicing a magic trick). Or sometimes it’s the owl that softly hoots outside our bedroom at night, which replaced the sound of Heathrow’s flight path when we moved to the Yorkshire coast. It can simply be hearing the right voice on the end of the phone – husband when I’m in a flap, sister after another night of no sleep, mum when you just need your mum. And occasionally it’s a well earned “pop! glug glug glug” after a difficult day. I’ve got loads, and they all serve the same purpose: I am calmed, soothed and “OK” when I hear these sounds. And then there are the worst sounds, which for me is almost always the sound of conflict, and which is almost always at its worst when it’s with someone I love.
Of course there is a difference between hearing and listening, and when I compare my best sounds to my worst it’s obvious. Generally I consider myself a good listener. I have a job where I listen to people all day, I know what it means to reflectively listen, and I am naturally more comfortable as the listener than the speaker. But there are times when I don’t want to listen; when I hear Baby Girl cry and want to tell her stop rather than work through the mental checklist (Hungry? Pooey? Sleepy?) Or when I don’t hear husband’s point of view as I’m too concerned with venting my own. In these moments the sounds stop being sounds, they become noise instead, and they loose all meaning.
I suppose then the difference comes from how we feel when the sound goes in. Are we in a place where we can listen to the difficult sounds, or do we need to check ourselves first? I swear a pneumatic drill doesn’t seem as loud when you’re being your best self! If we can calm our minds before engaging our ears then perhaps the noise will become more distinct, it won’t feel so overwhelming, and we can listen to the worst sounds until they start to seem better. And while this may be easier said than done, if we practice tuning in to our best sounds the mind does begin to calm. And that’s where ears are so remarkable – they can bounce vibrations around in our heads until we feel at peace. So maybe that’s why we have 2: one to tune in to the good stuff, while the other one sorts out the crap.
What do you love to listen to? How do you manage the worst sounds? Use the comment box to add your thoughts.
This guy says it better than me (and he’s called Julian Treasure!):