Please Be Quiet

Please Be Quiet

Am I the only one who thinks the world is far too noisy?

It’s time I came out of the closet and admitted to you that the reason I find the world excessively noisy is that I’m a highly sensitive person: highly sensitive to sound, highly sensitive to the vibes around me, highly sensitive to people’s moods, highly sensitive to light, and especially highly sensitive to bullshit. I feel EVERYTHING, that’s just how I experience the world. I’m also an empath and I’m highly intuitive so I’m on sensory overload all day long. Apart from that, I’m great fun to be with (Geez, I just realized why I’m still single).

This, my good friends, is why I need to nap every afternoon (I’m sorry if you’ve ever employed me but it’s true – I have no problem sleeping on a couch, in my car, or in a toilet cubicle). You might think, ‘ah Kelley, you’re being a bit dramatic don’t you think? A bit precious, daaaahling, I mean it’s one thing to say you’re sensitive, but HIGHLY sensitive? Now you’ve gone too far lady!!!’ Well, you’re wrong, and don’t call me lady, I really hate that. Being a HSP is a real thing, and I discovered it one afternoon thanks to my excessively noisy ex and his excessively noisy kids (Geez, I just realized why I’m childless).

One afternoon, I was reading on my bed upstairs while they were watching the Grand Prix downstairs. I started to get a bit twitchy and realized that the noise of the cars going round the track was driving me berserk. I could feel the vibration of every car’s tyres inside the nerve of every cell of my body. That wouldn’t seem unusual, right? A lot of people find that sound annoying. But I guess that’s when I started noticing it more: that all sounds were having a major impact on my central nervous system. I sat up in bed and Googled ‘I hate loud noises’ convinced there was something wrong with me, and that’s when I stumbled upon Elaine Aron’s research on HSPs. At last, somebody who understood me. If you relate to this in any way, go and read her book, The Highly Sensitive Person – it will change your life (the way a diagnosis for any weird quirk you have makes you feel instantly validated).

What does this have to do with anything? Why am I sharing this with you? Because I want to start a quiet movement. Not a deathly silence movement because that’s going a bit too far. Nope, just a movement where we are all a bit more conscious about HOW LOUD WE ARE in public places and if we could all just learn to pipe it down on occasion. Not in places where it’s warranted – schoolyards, McDonalds, your car when ACDC comes on. I’m talking about places where you just want to escape to look at something beautiful, like a park or an art gallery, or a game drive in the bush.

The closest I come to homicidal mania and going on shooting sprees is in places that are meant to be holy and serene: churches, museums and art galleries. When I find myself trundling behind the masses (I’m a snob and I’m owning it) in long queues to get into some popular tourist attraction, I know I’m going to want to maim at least twelve people before reaching the ticket booth. Then even more once inside. Like the time when I finally got to see the Sistine Chapel – I can’t describe how much I’d dreamed of that moment – only to be pushed, and I do mean pushed, into a room with three hundred other people, all of us straining our necks to get the most of our twenty-eight seconds in there before a stampede ensued. Not what I imagine Michelangelo had envisioned.

I once became very violent (only on the inside where I nearly ruptured an ulcer) when I finally got to the Mona Lisa after trekking through the Louvre for five hours. There, in front of this five hundred year old masterpiece, were hundreds of disgusting little snot-nosed school children with no sense of appreciation for art at all (remember I can feel everyone’s feelings) clicking their phones and posing for pics. PLEASE CAN WE BAN CAMERAS AND PHONES INSIDE ART GALLERIES FOR F*&$$@’S SAKES!!!! Isn’t the whole point of viewing art to VIEW IT IN SILENCE??????????????????

(And would someone please ban me from using so many question marks, capital letters and exclamation marks in my writing? Some people CAN’T BEAR IT!!!!!!!!!)

In Milan they’ve got it right. They only allow a few people at a time to view Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, and let me tell you it is worth making the journey for that alone. Standing there in awe, admiring the beauty of this sacred relic IN SILENCE was one of the most moving experiences of my life. This is the stuff that transforms your soul – those moments when you’re unable to speak; when your rational mind has gone to sleep and your soul is so moved that there are no words, there are just no words. But it requires silence, because that is the language of the heart.

When I view art I want to stand in its presence IN TOTAL SILENCE and connect to the artist through his or her work (unless it’s Dali or Picasso, then I want to run screaming). I find nothing more spiritual or magical when I feel a connection to a painting, or a poem, or a sculpture created by someone across time: it’s just dreamy…

I went through a stage where I was obsessed with redwood trees after watching Planet Earth. While in San Francisco, I asked my boyfriend if we could do a day trip to the wine region and to a forest full of redwoods. We hopped on an organized day tour and a few hours later we found ourselves walking amongst the most exquisite trees. You meander down a path through the woods and are able to treat it as a kind of meditation. That is, of course, unless you are surrounded by tourists who have no respect for silence (SIGNS TO BE QUIET ARE EVERYWHERE!!!) and spend the entire time more concerned with their snacks and beverages and yelling ‘hey honey, will you check this out? Like oh my God it’s like totally amazing.’ I wanted to yell, ‘like shut up already. YOU ARE MISSING THE EXPERIENCE YOU FUCKWITS. Be present…now…’

I’ll be back in a mo. I need to go for a walk before my heart gives out from memory recall.

We are generally a very unconscious species and it’s deeply troubling to me. Most of the time we’re not present; nobody’s home. We’re missing in action. We’re all somewhere else. Anywhere but here. When we talk to each other we’re a million miles away. When we find ourselves alone, doing nothing for longer than a minute our hands itch for our phones. We feel very uncomfortable when we have nothing to say. And yet the irony is that to really connect with who we are, we must be still. We must stop the incessant talking and, as Buddha would say, ‘please keep quiet’ (or is that a librarian?).

I suggest teaching this to your children too. Being quiet. Doing nothing. Just being with their ‘selves’, saying nothing and doing nothing. Try it. If a homicidal maniac like myself can do it, so can you. In fact, my new challenge is to use tourists as my meditation and see if I can remain calm at my core when John and Judy from Oklahoma are mouthing off while a daddy lion approaches the game vehicle. Can I resist the urge to nudge Judy overboard? Or hold off from whispering in John’s ear that the lions like it when you stick your head out the side and growl at them? Probably not, but I’m willing to go to any lengths for the sake of knowing that amidst total chaos I can create my own inner sanctum. Because that really is the only thing over which I have control.

P.S. My new single, ‘I got me some deep-seated anger about ‘em redwoods’ will be out soon. I’m currently working on my next song titled, ‘Judy never made it back from safari, and John’s been a-moping ever since.’

Adios.

Kelley Thorrington
natalie@thecreativelab.co.za