Listen to the sounds around you.
A gadget beeps. A refrigerator hums. Water gurgles through pipes through the ceiling overhead.
Rarely, in our world, is it actually quiet. We block these sounds out. Or do we?
Today, I listened to This American Life episode about a guy, working in an office, who went through the trouble of determining the musical key of the buzzing around him: fluorescent lights, monitors, dial tones. Sometimes, he said, the tones might produce a kind of invisible music. If we are lucky, he suggested, it might be a major third. A cheerful tone. If we are unlucky, it might be a minor tone, or worse, a tri-tone – a musical interval so vile that medieval music theorists called it the devil’s tone. The idea here is that people are influenced, emotionally by music. We all know that. So how could we sit in an office, listening to a minor chord or tri-tone, for hours on end, without negative implications? And vice versa – could the sound of the microwave, defrosting our morning bagel, harmonize with the freezer itself, forming an optimistic musical harbinger of the day to come?
The attention to detail struck me at once as whimsical and also profound. The noise around us takes energy to block out, to focus on, and as Jack Hitt suggests, never in the history of humankind have there been so many droning noises filling our ears. Gadgets and machines and motors in constant cacophony.
Indeed, I can’t stand sitting in a cafe near a noisy refrigerator, and conversely, I’ll note to myself, upon shutting off a heater or air-conditioner: finally, I can think!
This is why we like to take quiet getaways to quiet places (although many of us have yet to take the final step of shutting down our devices once we’re there). This also underscores the value of the tradition of shutting off my phone and computer on Shabbat (a custom I should probably practice more thoroughly).
And this, perhaps, explains my love of certain patterns in clothing: notably – checkers and stripes.
In a world of chaos and constant noise, filtering down to simplicity can actually refresh and rejuvenate – on the inside but also on the outside. Sure, stripes can be bold. But also, there is purity to the design and it blocks out other noise.
Five Rules For Selecting a Power Pattern
1. Try choosing a pattern in the simplest colors the eye knows: red and blue. Black and white.
2. Pair it against something neutral. Jeans or grey.
3. For a bolder effect, wider stripes. For subtlety, go narrow.
4. To increase noise, add stripes, but be sure you know how much flair you can handle (perhaps by peeking at this guide, first).
5. Prepare for compliments.