I was in our brand spanking new YMCA when I overheard a discussion between two staff members who were frustrated about their inability to crank up the music volume. For several days there had been no music, only the sounds of spinning treadmills and the grunts and groans of members trying their best to use the unforgiving weight machines. I had high hopes that our Y would be different than the other gyms where I had been a member. Maybe the new Y would be a gym where I could work out without music blaring overhead. That turned out to be wishful thinking.
NOISE is a big part of the show in the exercise world. It’s a commonly held belief that loud music can motivate us, or at the very least, stave off boredom. Even yoga instructors play music during their classes while simultaneously encouraging their students to listen to their bodies, and leave the outside world behind. I thought I’d heard everything during yoga class until the day our instructor’s soundtrack included Kermit singing “Rainbow Connection”. Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against Muppets, (or rainbows, for that matter), it’s just like . . shouldn’t I be listening to something more important?
It’s easy to blame external forces, be it gyms, television, or cell phones for all the increasing racket in our lives. But the fact of the matter is that we seek out noise,we crave it, we actually need it, even if it’s not healthy for us. We fear of silence because it can be unnerving. Without something to distract us, our focus can shift to thoughts and feelings which are often troubling and unresolved. Suppressed thoughts and desires percolate to the surface if we don’t Katy bar the door. We need something to fill the vacuum and help us avoid the questions that can arise during the unnerving silence. Questions like: Am I really that happy? Do I love my job, my partner? Does God exist? We use noise just like we use overeating, alcohol, and drugs–to keep our thoughts and feelings at bay. It’s safe to say many of us are actually addicted to it.
They fixed the music the other day at the Y, and the staff seems happy. Granted, it’s not loud compared to the other gyms I’ve been at. There are options for members who need noise: several ginormous televisions, tuned into competing channels, and of course you can always listen to a podcast on your smartphone. Me? I’ll continue to go to the Y, and I’m still going to practice yoga, whether Kermit is there or not. However, all the while I’ll continue to yearn for the sounds of silence.