, , , , ,

As usual on a Monday, here is the next excerpt of Beatrice Allen Page’s unpublished manuscript, Landscape with Figures:

“The Fourth started off with a bang, literally – several bangs in fact, which have continued intermittently all day. There are always some youngsters (and, I suspect, adults) who manage to get hold of contraband firecrackers and cherry bombs.

It’s a queer thing about noise. Babies are frightened by it but most children and a good many grown-ups thoroughly enjoy it, or at least don’t mind it too much. When and how and why does fear turn to pleasure? I can understand why the teenagers (and not only the teenagers) love rock music, and the louder the better. It’s hard to resist that beat; they want to get right inside it, lose themselves in it even though it damages their hearing. I can understand it because I have a weakness for that rock beat myself but not the tunes and words that usually go with it. But why do they get such a boot out of the roar of a car or a motorcycle without a muffler? If you create the noise yourself,  perhaps it gives you a sense of power, particularly if you can make other people wince.

Aside from all the deliberately created noises, there are the noises contingent upon such things as power lawn mowers, speedboats, planes pulling banners with advertisements, and the really hideous sound of chain saws. I mention only things common to the semi-isolated community such as Stoneleigh and omit all the myriad harsh and grating noises of an industrial city. Most people seem to take these unpleasant sounds for granted. Am I so unusually thin-skinned (or thin-tympanumed) that the pop of a few firecrackers can ruin my whole day? I know one thing: if everyone felt about noise as I do, nothing else would be needed to outlaw firearms and prevent wars. No one would be willing to expose himself to the sound of guns and bombs.

I am certain there are many hidden relationships between humankind and the environment that will eventually come to light. Noise, for instance, will be found to be more than an irritation or an assault upon the nerves. It will be found to be linked to some physical disease, not something obvious like deafness but something as seemingly unrelated as cancer. The use of ultrasound has become standard treatment for a muscle spasm, I understand. Well, if ultrasound, which is inaudible to our ears, can relax a cramped muscle, why shouldn’t certain ugly sounds that grate upon us cause cells to proliferate?

I just looked up ‘noise’ and ‘noisome’ to see if they stem from the same root. Apparently not, according to my desk dictionary. ‘Noisome’ stems from the same root as ‘annoy.’ ‘Noise’ is believed to derive from the Latin nausea, meaning the same thing as it does in English – a fact which implies man has unconsciously perceived a connection between noise and ill health.

I’d never dare suggest to an intelligent person, of course, that harsh sounds might be the cause of a malignant tumor or ulcers or high blood pressure. (There was a time when the theory that physical diseases could have emotional origins was scoffed at, too.) The more rational part of my mind recognizes the implausibility of my theory. However, since I came back here I find myself less and less chary of entertaining absurd ideas. If I stayed here long enough and lived long enough, I should probably be pointed out as an eccentric old woman full of crochets and ‘whimsies of the head.'”