Monday, July 6, 2009

The Sounds Of Silence...

The End of Dinner
1913
Jules-Alexandre Grün

Occasionally I like to treat myself and go out for lunch, or perhaps a light dinner on my way home from work. Whenever I am in a noisy restaurant, I find myself wondering what conversation must have been like in a lovely dining room during, say, the Edwardian era. I often think I would like to transport myself into the painting on this post, and join in the conversations these folks are having. I think they must be discussing all sorts of interesting topics, all the while being witty and charming.

The other afternoon I visited my favorite Japanese restaurant not far from my home. The restaurant has a wonderful ambience, delicious food, superb service, and soft traditional Japanese music playing in the background. Everything about it is perfect. But the day I was there, I was seated not far from a table of young women in their early twenties. There was one woman in particular who never stopped talking, I was watching to see if she was even able to breathe, she prattled on so much -- about nothing. And of course, she had to speak loudly enough so that not only everyone at her table heard her, but everyone else in the restaurant. It gave me such a headache, I had to leave.

Has anyone else noticed lately that people seem to be getting louder? No one listens anymore, they talk more, but they say less. It's just babble to fill the air. People seem to be losing the gift of making conversation. I think conversation should be speaking with someone, rather than "talking at" them, but I have noticed that conversation now seems to consist of someone jabbering away at people, rather than engaging them in a to-and-fro exchange of thoughts and ideas. We are held captive by the rapid-fire talker, who spews words at us like bullets from a machine gun, and there's no escape. Any attempt to engage them in conversation with us is futile, because -- they're not listening.

The young lady in the Japanese restaurant chattered away at her three companions, completely unaware that they looked like deer caught in the headlights of a car. Do we owe this lost art of conversation to the fact that we are living in a louder society, and we have to talk louder in order to be heard? Or perhaps we are so used to watching the "talking heads" on TV that we subconsciously emulate them when we speak with people, and we think we're making conversation.

Ah ... sometimes I love the sounds of silence.

23 comments:

Amelia said...

Ahhh...what it would be like to be seated at that table in one of those most elegant dresses!! =)

And yes, I do agree. People are getting louder. I really dislike it when people are in places with the blue tooth or cell phones on, talking so loud, ignoring where they are walking, bump into you and don't even excuse themselves!!

Once again, lovely post. I love coming here. So glad I found you.

cat said...

It also seems that those who talk the loudest also feel that they are the smartest. I am a good listener (I think) but don't think I am a witty or charming conversationalist by any means. But maybe if I were 'allowed' to talk more, I would surprise myself?

Linda S. Socha said...

Ah Jo
I can so relate to this one! I find myself going to smaller and quieter restaurants...I love your painting and I could step right into it and breathe!

I do agree that, for whatever reason, people are getting louder. I think our crazy busy society contributes to that. I will save that rant for another time

Thanks fror a great post
Linda

Kathy's Klothesline said...

Yes, you are right about the volume with which we speak. Do you think it has to do with all the background noise that assaults us every day? The phone use annoys me. Every one seems to be connected to their phones and talk constantly, while I long to be away from mine and am unable to ignore it. I yearn for a simpler life........

Land of shimp said...

I've noticed that we communicate all the time, or at least many do. Perhaps that leads to the feeling that we need to over-communicate? Between cell phones, texting, etc. I think being alone with ones thoughts has become something of a lost art.

Before I say this, I do want to add that I find many people sincerely interesting and I feel very privileged to know them, both in real life, and some people out here on the internet. Yup, standard sort of disclaimer, but genuinely meant! I do think, however, that we have lost the ability to separate the mundane in our lives from the things of actual import or interest.

I'm sure most have heard of Twitter, but it is case-in-point, an entire social network based on "What are you doing right now?" It's just a symptom of perhaps a bit too much detail brought into conversation. We're not used to ever being alone any longer as a society. I think current thinking with younger people is that if you are, there is something inherently wrong with you. The entire trend seemed to start when we were just over scheduled as people. It seems as if it is now something of a rarity to go to the grocery store and simply have that be the one thing being done at that time. Everyone seems to talk on cells, text, etc.

There's also the implication in the likes of Twitter, that we no longer really understand (as a society, I'm using the general we, not the specific) how to converse about anything outside of our inner monologue, and everyday events.

Leslie: said...

After years of children, both in school and at home, I yearn for silence. I never have the TV or radio on unless I'm actually watching or listening to something in particular. I love to be able to hear the birds chattering away outside my back window and get very irritated when neighbours decide to stop and yak in front of my house.

Silence is golden!

DUTA said...

I agree with Leslie's words on silence, TV, radio, neighbours. Nowadays everything is loud and noisy . Silence has become very precious, it's golden, indeed.

lovelyprism said...

I think that is the reason I have been a night owl for so long. The children are in bed, the house is clean and I can sit in silence with a good book and a cup of tea. I don't know if people are actually getting louder or if there are always just more of them about. When I moved to this little town 6 years ago there were less than 60,000 people here, now there are 135,000. None of the stores or schools or anywhere public are quiet like they used to be. It does seem that a great many of them are also on the phone, which is just rude. But why do they talk so loudly on their cell phones? If you have to talk that loud, your phone or your carrier are bad, get a new one and be quiet!

PhilipH said...

Noise, utter pollution. Mobile phone users, ignoramuses publico, are unbelievably loud.

I detest noisy environments. One reason why I am now so happy to live in this quiet countryside cottage in the ground of Mellerstain.

The Robert Adam dining room in Mellerstain is peacefullly elegant and so quiet. Yet in the silence of this room one can still hear the rustle of the silken dresses and whispered words of the diners of 250 years ago.

Noise reigns today and we all get drenched! Aaarrghhhh....

the walking man said...

Cellphones and the constant need to be heard because of a pervasive feeling of of lack of a voice has made for a much ruder society. Give me the wee hours alone in my room with God and my fingers and i am satisfied the conversation is a good one.

Hilary said...

Oh yes. I posted about those same thoughts a while back. Two women walk the same creekside path together every day. One of them never comes up for air. And she speaks loudly, assaulting the quiet of nature's surroundings. Last year, they were so self-absorbed that they failed to notice a beautiful Great Blue Heron slowly cross the path just a few yards ahead of them, to get from pond to creek. They never broke stride and never shut up. They missed a beautiful and rare occurrence and never even knew it.. or cared. Something was so wrong with that picture.. and sound.

Leah Fry said...

My husband and I had dinner recently at a busy restaurant. A woman across from us, dining alone, talked on her cell phone through a round of drinks and dinner — the entire time. Why didn't she just invite that person to dinner?

My husband and I asked to be moved at an Olive Garden one time. A woman with 3 young children talked on her cell phone while the children were out of control. I might be more tolerant at lunch time, but this was dinner. I'm a mom. I know what it's like. But that sort of self-absorbed behavior is not acceptable, and we do our children a disservice when we allow them to behave as though it is.

Patty said...

I think the reason people are getting louder is, they are losing their hearing from listening to their radios and TV's too loud. But nothing more irritating than a person talking too loud or children fussing, while trying to eat.

meggie said...

I see, & hear this so often! What ever happened to the art of listening??

Maureen said...

Been said already, but it's cell phones and texting. No boundaries, instant gratification. New world order.

Katy said...

You discribed my father. To a tea. Talks loud and never shuts up. Even when we say... "Dad, you lost me. Quit talking!" He hardly ever has anything intersting to say.

So, no I don't think we have a sudden lack of conversatin. I can think of characters in Jane Austen and Dickens novels who are discribed in much the same way. I think it is a character flaw that some have and it has been around since the dawn of time.

The thing is, they are so loud they are hard to miss. Maybe there are more of them then there used to be, or maybe you are just starting to notice them more.

Paula Slade said...

I too have noticed, particularly in public settings, that folks seem to spew words rather than have back and forth conversations with eye contact. It almost seems as if they've had very little human interaction in a long while so they are ready to explode. Maybe it's because of the use of social platforms, which encourage brevity and in turn create a hunger for real human interaction.

Deb said...

If my surroundings are very noisy, I truly cannot concentrate.
There are many times that I need to tell my husband to hush when he is on the phone with other people. People hard of hearing over compensate by speaking louder.
Perhaps that is it, Jo. A society of IPods, cellphone, and concerts have damaged our hearing.

Kate said...

Someone who speaks incessantly without regard to the listener's reaction is my definition of a B O R E !

My small family group were up at Dog Mountain in North Vancouver for Canada Day. I have only had the fortune of visiting there in the past when there were not many people, but of course it was a busy, sunny holiday so there were many hikers. Each group found their own little view spot to sit on the rocks and soak up the sun and magnificent view over the mountains.

When a larger family or group of perhaps 12 extended members from another culture arrived, we were gobsmacked at how loud they were. Everyone on the mountain could hear every word each group had to say, although we could not understand them.

Only then did I realize that up to then, we were speaking in a sort of hush out of respect for the other picnickers and there was a sort of reverence for the natural surroundings. Like campers, we spoke in low murmurs so each visitor could enjoy what they hiked all that way for.

Such a contrast! That big group certainly changed the tone of our picnic.

K

ivan said...

The assertive vulgarian chatters not only to her neighbour, but also to you, the sort- of outsider; she knows you are listening.

Pat said...

I do like an evening out with my friends. A long time ago there was a woman in our group who talked constantly and wouldn't let anyone get a word in edgewise. Us women would get out maybe once a month for dinner, and I really wanted to hear how EVERYONE was doing. But this blabbermouth couldn't shut up. Finally I detached myself from her because she wore me out too much. It ended up that the other women hated going out with her, too. We started going out without her. I felt bad, but she had to know what she was doing, you know?

Brenda said...

I missed this post when you did it but noticed it today and had to put my two cents in. The art of "conversation" does seem to be hard to find. I think some people just aren't taught good manners. I feel proud of our 2 children in this regard. They do listen as much as they talk. Not sure if we helped them with this, or if they learned it in their schooling or were just born this way.
A one-sided conversation is just as you described it. A rapid fired talker is like being spewed with bullets from a machine gun. It gives me a headache also.

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