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Too Quiet

Feb. 12, 2023

Dr. David, Editor / Publisher

I adore old pickup trucks. At university (UConn class of '78), I drove a 1960 Chevy along the backroads of rural northeast Connecticut. But I don't adore the racket that rattle-trap pickups make bouncing over these cobblestone streets.

My house is humble, bien mexicana (very Mexican). One of its rooms is the oldest habitation in Colonia San Antonio, built to house the care-taker of the church. The church itself is just a hop, skip and pole vault over the wall here at the end of my dead-end alleyway. ("Cerrada" sounds so much more romantic than "dead-end", no?) Humble as the house is, it yet possesses perhaps the greatest luxury here in San Miguel, quiet.

The place is set back from 20 de enero. I can hear noise from that local byway, but rarely at any great volume and always only briefly. With tall buildings on either side serving as sound barriers, my exposure is chiefly limited to the moment when the offending vehicle is passing my alley's narrow aperture onto that street.

Then, in the other direction, the adjacent back plaza of the church, large and almost always empty, provides another buffer, especially psychological, against the urban hub-bub.

While I am sleeping, when I need it most, the quiet is enhanced greatly by two important factors. One, my bedroom is set back, recessed in the farthest corner of my abode. Two, I use earplugs. Those foam plugs (tampones) may only cut out 35-40% of the noise, but it is a critical 35-40%, enough to allow me to overlook the rest.

Rising at night to answer nature's call with the earplugs in place is an eerie sensation, like moving submerged, under water, in the dark, as if in a dream. I was reminded of this yesterday when I read an article about the world's quietest room. Echoless by design, in it you "lose your balance due to the lack of reverberation in the room, which impairs your spatial awareness."

The title of the article is No one can stay in the quietest room in the world for more than an hour (actually 45 minutes). The reason for this incapacity is that, while the room is silent, your body isn't. People go batty listening to their heartbeat, breathing, joints moving, blood flowing, intestines churning... When left to ourselves, it seems, we are quite noisy.

The same thing can happen when we are left alone with our thoughts. Without the distractions, background ideas become amplified. Solitary confinement is severe punishment, not only because it deprives us of social contact, but because we can't get away from ourselves. Isolation, if it doesn't make you crazy, makes you sane.

My semi-monastic, writer's existence finds me frequently alone with my thoughts. Generally, I find them good company. When I find them bothersome, I take the blame. I wonder who is being bothered, what aspect of me, and why. I observe the bother more closely.

When I do, invariably, I find something wonderful is trying to get through to me. Undoing these neurotic knots, digging into "the problem", is always messy work, but always leads to treasure:

"You find, paradoxically, that what you are running away from turns out to be the source of your authentic being." James Hillman, Dean of the Zurich Jung School

I don't know what the algorithm is showing you, but these days a lot of content about Artificial Intelligence is showing up on my computer and phone. I've even discovered the difference between Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Artificial General Intelligence (AGI).

AI we already have. AI suggests completions when you are typing, news content that could be up your alley, Facebook ads that might catch your eye. AI, an engineering tool, is "aware" of the problem you set before it. AGI, still a distant (impossible?) goal, would be generally aware, aware of its capacity for awareness, free to direct its intelligence, its awareness. (See my other article this week.)

Science meets Spirituality. The search for Artificial General Intelligence is the search for Enlightenment.

Am I free to direct my awareness? Can I think in a new way, "Sing a new song", when confronted with unpleasantness? Or do I fall into habitual emotions?

Being irritated by passing rudeness just prolongs my association with the offence, making me as foolish as the person delivering the rudeness. Getting upset about the dog barking at three o'clock in the morning does not help me fall back asleep.

Earplugs or not, I am awakened by those cuetes, the aerial quarter sticks of dynamite, exploding in la madrugada (the pre-dawn hours). Mexicans are also awakened. How could they not be? But they don't start thinking about having their sleep disturbed. They don't take it personally. They just roll over and fall back asleep.


Dr. David presents Lokkal, the social network, the prettiest, most-efficient way to see San Miguel online. Our Wall shows it all. Join and add your point of view.


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Watch the two-minute video below.
Then, just below that, scroll down SMA's Community Wall.
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