Personal reflections · Reminders to self · Words of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo

Managing the Noises

A new post in the series – Reminders to self

Always good to start with examples.

1. A wanna-be-in-news-for-a-day politican makes a comment about the slavish mentality of a political party, by giving an example that in all honesty is not far from one of the many uncomfortable truths of our larger society. Now he is not one of the usual English-speaking types that the elite sections of our mass media and their followers seem to endorse, so he ends up blurting out his thing in a somewhat crude or crass manner. Resulting in offending the oh-so-delicate sensibilities of our social elite. How dare he? All hell breaks lose. Noisemakers get busy doing what they do best. For a day or maybe two. Till the next opportunity arrives, and arrive it will soon enough.

2. A reporter twists some words of a decorated army general, giving a totally different spin on the intent of the words. A full-blown war of words is on. Who cares about the important work that the general has been doing for the nation’s citizens for the past several days, as long as the noisemakers are busy with their noises.

3. In between 1 and 2 there were many other opportunities well utilised for making more noises. The curious case of an MIA reluctant politican, the inscrutable case of the unraveling of a new political outfit, and a few more. Not to forget there were also some celebrity videos, some celebrity disclosures, some celebrity this or that, for a fair amount of other entertainment. 
The 21st century political democracy is full of such noises. And more. Led by the mass media and supported by an increasingly vocal ‘educated’ and ‘wired’ sections of the middle classes, this version of democratic discourse is loud, noisy and unrelenting.
The other day I found myself reflecting on this ‘noisy’ phenomenon of our times and the need for ‘managing’ the noise. Unless one is living in a cave somewhere, these noises do have an impact on us, in different ways, to different degrees. So managing them and navigating one’s way through them becomes important. 
What do you do when the outside noises become too loud? Especially when you also find that many of these noises are simply too silly, too frivolous, with no real substance, with no serious thought. Of course, the easiest thing is to ignore all those noises which you consider frivolous, devoid of any substance or just plain silly. But we know that such terms like silly, frivolous, substantive, serious are subjective. What seems mundane or frivolous to some could be quite important or interesting for others.

Subjective are and must also be the ways to deal with these noises — mundane or significant. Different people do different things.

Some just shut out the outer world and its noises and go back into their little safe worlds of domestic joys and concerns, of their personal achievements and struggles, personal cocoons where they can better control and check the noises entering their environments.

Some try to engage with some of the noises they consider significant, but do so on their terms, selectively, thoughtfully, being mindful of how much to engage and when to withdraw.

Some withdraw into their inner worlds where they are able to neutralize any impact of the outer noises and arrive at a quieter place with the help of silent contemplation.

And some others do a combination of two or all of these things — a bit of mindful engagement with some of the noises (even if the engagement is sometimes limited to an inner mental churning for personal understanding which doesn’t express itself outwardly), a bit of physical withdrawal, a bit of emotional-mental withdrawal, and whatever else that helps them overcome, dull, reduce, transcend the noises.

When reflecting upon my pattern of responses, I found myself doing any one or more of these things, depending on my mood at the time.

But it is important to go beyond this idea of merely ‘managing the noise’ and ask some critical questions — what is/are the reason(s) for all the noise out there? Is it something that has always existed and for some reason I was just not aware of it? Or has this noise become more shrill, more annoying, more loud in the recent times? What could possibly be the reason(s) for this? Is it that I have become more sensitive to the noise?

It is even more important to ask: Are we allowing the loud noises to sway us in one direction or another? Are we slowly losing our independent ability to weigh the arguments, assess the reasonings and come to our own understanding?

I am not sure I have all the answers yet, but I am pretty convinced of the need to ask these questions.

Because unless we ask these questions, we may simply be drowning in the sea of noises out there. We may simply be allowing others to tell us what should be our ‘right’ reaction to a particular noise, a particular happening, a particular situation.

But that’s not all.

It is perhaps even more important to remember a much deeper truth. A truth beyond all the noise.

The truth that the noises are not only out there, the more damaging ones are the noises inside us. How do we deal with the noise that is in here, in our minds? Where does this noise come from? How can I move beyond this noise to a better place of quietude?

Sometimes the answer surprises us. Because the answer isn’t separate from the question, it is rather hidden in the question itself. We don’t ‘deal with’ or ‘manage’ the noise in here. We simply recognise it, identify it, and through that process itself the noise begins to lose its ‘hold’ upon us. We can slowly begin to walk away from the possible impact of the mental noise and inch toward a truer voice that had been hiding under all the noise.

If only you become conscious of your physical mind in itself… Some people have called it a public square, because everything comes there, goes across, passes, comes back…. All ideas go there, they enter at one place, leave by another, some are here, some there, and it is a public square, not very well organised, for usually ideas meet and knock into one another, there are accidents of all kinds. But then one becomes aware: “What can I call my mind?” or “What is my mind?” One needs years of very attentive, very careful, very reasonable, very coherent work, organisation, selection, construction, in order to succeed simply in forming, oh, simply this little thing, one’s own way of thinking

One believes one has one’s own way of thinking. Not at all. It depends totally upon the people one speaks with or the books one has read or on the mood one is in. It depends also on whether you have a good or bad digestion, it depends on whether you are shut up in a room without proper ventilation or whether you are in the open air; it depends on whether you have a beautiful landscape before you; it depends on whether there is sunshine or rain! You are not aware of it, but you think all kinds of things, completely different according to a heap of things which have nothing to do with you! 

And for this to become a coordinated, coherent, logical thought, a long thorough work is necessary.  

~ The Mother, CWM, Vol. 6, pp. 258-259 

Image source

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To see previous post in the series, Reminders to self, click here.
To seel all posts in the series, click here.

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Linking with ABC Wednesday, M, M is for Managing

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