I wonder about the mental effects of amplified noise

I grew up in Connecticut. It was in a town just like Newtown. It was safe and it was quiet.

I am a father and a grandfather. My life is surrounded with children.

This weekend has been tough. You try to read or write something, but the mind wanders. Then you feel sadness. The more you think about the specifics, the sadder it gets. Your heart aches.

Our nation feels it. I recently read the words “collective grief.” That about sums it up. And this too: we are collectively sorry for those poor souls.

Now I might make you mad. But it needs to be said, now more than ever.

On guns

My mom had only two unbreakable rules for us four kids. No guns and no motorcycles.

Guns scare me. I don’t like seeing them or being near them.

I only shot a gun once. It was during my short stint in the Boy Scouts. (I didn’t make it long in the Scouts.) I also learned to shoot a bow, but after killing a squirrel once, I felt awful, and stopped that too. Though I personally don’t like hunting, I understand its draw. Many use guns to hunt.

But handguns and assault rifles? It seems senseless, farcical even, that weapons of human destruction can be acquired so easily. What are we thinking? I’m all for freedom, and understand well the Bill of Rights, but come on? Surely we can be true to our founding fathers and still maintain common sense. This must change.

On mental health

It’s not fair, or right, that those with disorders of the brain are shunned. We should fund and study mental health disorders with the same vigor that we do breast cancer and heart disease. Surely we can all agree on this. How well we care for the poor — who so often are afflicted with mental illness — says a lot about our nation’s soul.

On society

The word that comes to mind is “amplified.” Everything is so amplified. At work, the rules and regulations are amplified. Always more rules—more signs, more emails, more meetings, more lights and more alarms. More.

Then there is our constant connectedness. This too amplifies. Social media amplifies. So does cable news around the clock. Living so close together in urban centers amplifies. The noise is deafening — in the car, on the roads, in the train or airplane, in the grocery and even at home. No peace. Everywhere there is distraction and noise. These are the facts. Though the young would have trouble imagining life without smartphones and Apple products, us olders can vouch that it was equally happy. Life is just so dang amplified. Always full gas. It makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

No, I don’t think society is more violent now.  In fact, it’s probably less so. And I don’t blame technology for this spate of madness.

As a contributing factor though, how we humans have come to live is hard to ignore.

I wonder about the mental effects of all this amplified noise.

John Mandrola is a cardiologist who blogs at Dr John M.

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  • buzzkillersmith

    You’re right that society is less violent than it has been. Murder rates in England several centuries ago were much higher than ours is now. This is because of better social control.

    Cable news, noise–well, maybe. A little bit around the edges maybe. Interconnectedness, yes, if by that you mean physical proximity. But in truth many people are killers , or at least they might be under certain circumstances. Disarmament is the only real solution that is even partially effective. Do you see this society disarming?
    Let’s look at a history, read a little literature. Read Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. There’s more truth in that novel than in a thousand dime-store analyses. Wake up and see the violence. This is not for everyone, of course, but you’re a grown-up who is no stranger to suffering and death.

    Look at the ancients, look at the Christian-Muslim wars raging more than a thousand years, look at the conquest of the Americas, our Indian Wars, Armenia and the Turks, Europe in the world wars, China, the Soviet Union, Cambodia, Iraq, Congo. Millions killed, children killed without a thought. Hell, you know this, doc.

    Sorry to kill the buzz again, and I am truly heartbroken about the children. But raging against people killing each other is like raging about the sun coming up in the east.

  • RJones

    People have always killed and been killed. Centuries of history shows us that what is a ‘normal’ for an era is related to the conditions of living in that time period. Killing in some eras was a form of Darwinism, survival of the fittest, and controlling the masses with fear, intimidation etc.
    But no society ever thought killing children was normal. It frequently happened, but never without tears, fright, dismay, and very often with full revenge. Children have been killers too, taught to be hardened.
    I agree our constant barrage of information, noise, and too close proximity to people in tight, small places is a factor in so many young men seemingly unable to handle something in their lives. Most large massacre shootings are young men, could it be something related to our way of living, to radio/cell phone waves everywhere, or possibly — can there be brain damage from medicines for things such as ADHD, and/or a medicine withdrawal?
    Is it simply massive mental illness, or a form of brain damage, or the sheer conditioning from all the aggressive messages/noise/computer games of aggression etc?
    I’m sure I don’t know. But I would hope if this young man’s brain was not too damaged by his suicide, that his brain will be studied now.
    We live in a very fast world. Information overload does seem to be problematic. We always felt TV was something that should be limited for our children, even devising what could be broadcase during ‘children hours’. The internet, as well as toys/entertainment games are violent, and pervasive. Perhaps we need to study moderation of all things.
    Moderation of all things. It is not a new concept.