New York Public Library, 2019

As I walked past a shuttered café this afternoon, I realized how much I miss writing in public. There’s an interesting shift between writing in silence versus writing against noise, such as the din of a coffeeshop or a busy train station. A wall of babble can become a springboard that drives me deeper into my thoughts. That’s something reassuring about this, like a favorite blanket. Maybe it’s the social contract of working among strangers; I can’t pace, moan, or gaze into the refrigerator like I do at home. On the other hand, one person’s coughing or skreaking pencil in a library can shatter my thoughts and become a vector of hate. So there’s a distinct bandwidth for me: either lots of noise or none at all.

The perpetually miserable philosopher Schopenhauer agonized over the noise of the early 19th-century: “I have long held the opinion,” he wrote, “that the amount of noise which anyone can bear undisturbed stands in inverse proportion to his mental capacity. Noise is a torture to all intellectual people.” Perhaps my industrial soundtrack of doom metal and blurred techno reveals my intellectual worth.

In this year without coffeeshops or libraries, I’m surprised how much I miss being around sounds I can’t control. I’m even becoming nostalgic for someone coughing while I try to concentrate.


Mønic – Cut Through The Noise

In a Certain Light | Osiris Music, 2020 | Bandcamp
Each night in 2020 I wrote a short post for a series called Notes From the End of a World because I wanted to etch these times into my memory. Before the world changed completely.