You can join S.P.O.R.N. if you want. The Society for the Prevention of Refrigerator Noise is open to everyone. There are no dues, blessedly no meetings, and you can use the organization’s name to back you up anytime any mechanical noise is bothering you, and you want to complain.  S.P.O.R.N. does not discriminate on the basis of race, sexual preference, religion, or even political beliefs.

I started S.P.O.R.N. several years ago and there are at least three members that I know of, but there could be thousands more who have secretly joined or who will, as soon as they understand what we are for. Here is what we don’t want: Refrigerators humming into a peaceful evening at home, wrecking the ambiance (I moved mine into the outside hallway for years to get some respite). Power lawn mowers that grind through the air.  A fellow S.P.O.R.N. member is ear-tortured on a daily basis by a neighbor who leaf-blows his driveway to clean it of all dust and dirt. The spic and span tar he gets to look at does not lessen his suffering. I suggest instead of running to the gym to lift weights, it might be better to use a hand mower to trim the grass and a rake instead of the dreaded, high-pitched leaf blower. There are more things on the list: chain saws, droning airplanes, distant highways and their whoosh sounds, idling cars, motorcycles showing everyone who is boss, cars that pass me on my bicycle blaring what passes for music, but all I can hear is the bass that is so powerful that my bicycle vibrates, and hedge trimmers, (I spent a three-set tennis match on a beautiful Saturday afternoon listening to that jarring noise. Upon leaving the courts I observed the proud artist had turned his hedge into the shape of a mushroom. The accomplishment rendered me speechless.). I place radio and television, especially over-loud commercials, on my list, but I realize in doing this that I am getting dangerously close to treading on sacred territory for many people.

S.P.O.R.N. has seen some progress with refrigerators, as their humming has softened and no longer pulsates like they did in the bad old days, but in other ways things are going in the wrong direction. Take sirens for example. They are louder, more piercing, and are used much more often than the old pre-9/11 days. The heightening of fear that has worked so well at keeping us in line is a regular disturber of the peace just when we need it most. I was out on my bicycle very early in the morning recently, and an emergency vehicle tore down the road, wailing its siren, waking up everyone within a mile of it, yet there was not a single car in sight. Emergency! Emergency! The sirens jolts into everyone’s dreams, but the vehicle could get to where it was going just as fast without all the fuss. Last–my own pet peeve–are those back-up beepers on all big vehicles. Do we need to have our blood pressure elevated just because a garbage truck is backing up? Personally, I know when they are backing up whether they are making startling noises or not. But perhaps I am just exceptional in that way and most people would be completely unaware of the approaching behemoth.

S.P.O.R.N. members could even go to a Web site: sporn.com, if someone was willing to set it up. I haven’t checked, but I’ll bet the domain name is available. This could be a great tool where people could read about, vent, and get ideas and support to help prevent this assault on their ears. Any volunteers to be the web master?

The real point is that quiet is an aspect of a peaceful life. The fast-paced, stressed-out, fear-driven commotion that swirls around us is much in need of reform if we are to get our bearings in this giddy world.

One Response to “S.P.O.R.N.”

  1. Very funny. But there’s also a strange, almost spooky, message behind it all. The sounds of civilization betray the lack of real civility.

    I am reminded of times in my life when those sounds were largely absent.

    I lived in yoga ashrams for about 16 years. 7 of those years were in a fairly remote part of India – it was those years that gave me treasured memories of sound – sound that was elevating.

    Each morning I rose before dawn and made my way to the ashram dining hall. All was silent except for the stirring of the stainless steel chai pot, then the gentle water sounds of chai pouring into each plastic cup. As I sat on the cool concrete floor, soft sipping sounds arose gently as other ashramites savored their chai. No one spoke, except for the wakening birds in the nearby mango trees – their early morning dialogue soothing man and bird alike.

    After chai, the loudspeakers played the Rudram, an ancient sanskrit chant – not loud, just a soothing background sound that seemed to sanctify the air. As the day progressed, the main sounds were chanting, sweeping, spiritual dialogue, bird songs, and the occasional truck passing by on the dirt road.

    The interesting thing was how those sounds – so simple and pure – stayed with me even when I left the ashram to do business in Bombay, or when I traveled the dusty roads to visit other cities. It was as though the sounds were imprinted on my mind, or rather, embedded in my soul. Even today, many years later, certain bird noises or crickets or water filling a glass brings me back to those simple times when my only focus was higher things. This is a good thing and helps to get my head out of the riffraff of civilization.

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