I come from a place where everyone thrives on keeping their minds full at all times, mimicking the homes they live in. Lack of space and plenty of people means space rarely goes unoccupied. The streets are chock-full of people, the malls are never empty, and most houses might as well be mazes. This is no one’s fault, of course. But, the way it appears to me, there are two responses to living in a place like this: you either enjoy an empty mind, devoid of any thoughts or worries as you remain in a calm, restful state, or you fill your mind with anything you find, with advertising, with propaganda, with the concerns of your neighbours and the history of your fathers. Naturally, the former has fewer takers. Regardless, this is not the problem.
The problem is that other people live your life for you more than you live it yourself, and since they will always be there, so will the noise they carry with them. It is quite like how when a cat is belled, you know it approaches, but in this case, the bells toll everywhere; they jingle from all corners in an ugly, jarring dissonance. This is the problem, especially for people like me.
So, it is crucial to steal a moment of quiet. Of course, in truth, the closest to quiet you can get is a patio or a bench in the evening, with the traffic still echoing all around, the music blaring from all directions, and the people talking loudly. The noise never leaves, but you can recede behind some hedges. That is the closest you get to it; that is enough if you have spent your life in a place this loud. Any quieter and anxiety starts to creep in.
There is always a little and a lot to say about how this permanent presence of noise makes minds malleable, makes people agitated and angry, and how, like bacteria, an idea propagates, floats into and makes homes into populations. A little because any person with an ounce of identity would catch it before it reaches them and seek the quiet when they feel the animosity, hatred, and umbrella of second-hand thought overwhelming them, and a lot because those who need to listen only believe things when they are said over and over—any softer, and you might as well avoid intervening at all.
This piece is a part of the Soaring Twenties Social Club (STSC) Symposium #16. The STSC is a place for people who believe so profoundly in the simple ideas of identity and art that the mere existence of this belief earns the status of rebellion. In a world where originality is waning, the STSC strives to maintain the good fight. In this camaraderie, the Symposium is a monthly, almost disattached collaboration set around a central theme. This month’s theme is Propaganda.