The holidays bring noise pollution to an otherwise peaceful season. Let’s chill.

December 24, 2008

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Chicago Tribune writer, Barbara Mahany wrote a guest column recently about taking the time to appreciate the stillness and quietude of the season. Amidst the cacophony of December, she writes we have to “look for the stillness.” If and when we find it, she concludes, “the sacred comes.”

Normally, this is just the sort of smarmy holiday reflection that makes me wince or, more accurately, turn the page. There are box scores to get to. And besides, I need to know the latest buffoonish gesture our shameful Governor is perpetrating.

Yet, Mahany’s article gives pause. December is a loud month. Between our sugar high children and the endless blaring from always-on TV sets, when is there ever a moment of silence? Since when has “peace on earth and goodwill to men” become so damn loud? Even the colors scream: Red! Green! Silver! Gold!

Without doubt, our melodious industry is the most heinous culprit of all. Every commercial on radio and TV seems brasher and busier, turning beloved Christmas carols (the other mariachi music) into countless terrible jingles about saving money and the like. The assault on our senses make this fall’s “Saved by Zero” seem like birdsong.

The seasonal assault begins so early by mid-December we are sick of it. I am anyway. Maybe if holiday advertising came during the 12 days of Christmas we’d welcome it…more so anyway. Instead we are still eating Halloween candy when the ringing of “jingle” bells begins. It is usually the local advertisers who come first, their desperate pleas for having clean carpets in time for the holidays. Hollywood begins trumpeting their holiday fare for adults and children alike. I knew about “Four Christmases” before I had my one Thanksgiving. By December we are being bludgeoned by flat screen TVs and digital cameras, all specially priced for Christmas. All together, the noise is like a china cabinet tipping over…endlessly.

And so I appreciate this plea for stillness. And I know just where to find it. When I take our dog out for his last walk before bed there is peace and quiet: The snowed over lawns and deserted streets. The silent sentry of barren trees. This is the proverbial silent night, holy night. The effect is mesmerizing, a perfect and ironic antidote to the commercial chaos of Christmas. Here I can smoke my cheap cigar in peace, waiting for Bo to do his business.

6 Responses to “The holidays bring noise pollution to an otherwise peaceful season. Let’s chill.”

  1. Andy Webb said

    Maybe ironically, the answer to all the noise comes from an old ad campaign: Just Say No.

    Don’t buy stuff, or if you do, buy little token gifts. A few Christmases of large-scale turning to the holy rather than the commercial, and peace might return to the season.

    My family has dropped out, so to speak, and it’s wonderful.

  2. David Burn said

    I like what you’re saying here and I will remember to seek this stillness (something I had a hard time finding in Chicago).

    Here’s a poem I wrote about living in Lincoln Square:

    Overheard In Chicago

    When our apartment gets quiet at night
    We can hear the neighborhood

    When the neighborhood gets quiet
    We can hear the city

    The city’s always-on hum
    Like white noise, but not as clean

    Cars and sirens blow like trumpets
    Over the bass of always-on hum

    In the morning sometimes, birds do their part
    Offering something organic to the machine

  3. SRP said

    Bird song is nice.
    saw two cardinals cavorting in the snow this morning.
    Right now, a snowblower is droning endlessly out front.
    You win some. You lose some

  4. Sarah said

    Ironically I have just settled into a quiet moment at my parents’ house to read this; everyone is in their respective spaces reading or playing with new gizmos. It’s nice to have the breather after a day of traveling in town with presents and food in tow and busy houses full of family, cameras, wrapping paper and children. Good, bad or indifferent, a little over 300 days and we get to do it again!

  5. Sarah said

    Just remembered a commercial…. Pampers actually went for the calm and peaceful rather than loud and obnoxious. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSnMeiOPtLQ

  6. SRP said

    Nice spot. I hadn’t seen it.
    That many sleeping babies…
    How the hell did they shoot it?
    A lovely idea though. Thank you.
    God bless,
    SRP

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