Pages from the 1965 edition of Life Science library “Sound and Hearing”
I spent the afternoon running around in the foothills listening intently for errant dogs, jamming bicyclists, panting runners, sunning rattle snakes, or any other noise that put me on alert- a mountain lion perhaps? Not likely, but a little city thing like me is always slightly stressed out alone in the mountains, even in the foothills, where it’s nearly impossible to get lost. On such high alert every noise might just be something that may harm me. Even though that thought is produced by stress, it manifests physiologically and I feel like a lesser predator on a hunt- alert but scared and defensive. Mostly the noises were grasshoppers and rustling leaves, but I enjoy finding this residual primitive part of being a human.
When I came back to the city-side, my ears still primitive, wide open and on alert, I noticed that the city has it’s own set of alarming noises. Car horns, loud screeches, tractor reverse beeps, crosswalk beeps, barking dogs, alarm clocks, raised voices in altercations. All of which are indicators of how we should proceed in a situation. It’s not necessarily listening out for a rattle snake or a phantom mountain cat, but it is connecting to something programmed inside of us which uses our ears to protect ourselves. The primitive part of city humans isn’t residual at all. It’s just tweaked.
Even though we have adapted our senses to urban noises, the city is so loud. It doesn’t seem natural that we would be receiving cacophonous noise non-stop. If noise is something which, evolutionarily, put us on alert, in the city, we are in a constant state of ambient stress. If one considers how frenetic all the sound energy is and equate that to boiling water (I like to compare a lot of things to boiling water…) it’s no mystery that city humans can be so short and grumpy. They’re about to boil over and they don’t even know it! because the neighbor is yelling at their kids, the neighborhood dogs are having a bark-a-thon, the fridge is buzzing, and the computer fan is so loud!
This isn’t to romanticize nature or dis urban environments, it’s more like a hats off to being a human and how silly and wonderful it all is. And how cool it is to think about all things in the context of primitive devices.
Also, not to leave out the non-hearing or the hearing impaired; think about how cool their city senses are! Or how hyper alert they are while protecting themselves in nature or unfamiliar environments. It must be really impressive and an excellent display of human beingness!