As the Wind Blows


“The wind bloweth where it will, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but knowest not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”
β€” John 3:8, from the American Standard Version of the Bible.

The wind blows pollen from male trees in towns and cities across the country, and because there are far fewer female trees planted due to the perceived messiness of their fruits and seeds, much of the pollen lands instead in the breathing passages of people and animals, provoking allergic reactions. For trees, it’s an isolating and nearly sterile environment. Rain washes the pollen away from the streets and the houses and the cars eventually, but the people and animals have already inhaled more than some can tolerate.

A person can stand alone a very long time and be at peace, not feeling lonely, and until the wind whispers in their ear about the possibility of someone’s loving companionship they might stay alone, happily, for many years more. The wind has blown good news in that case, but it may as well have stayed calm and quiet. It is impossible to ignore the wind’s news, however, and in altered circumstances the person now realizes, oddly, how lonely life can be.

Boreas, a 1903 painting by John William Waterhouse (1849-1917).

Love scene from Vertigo, a 1958 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Kim Novak and James Stewart. Bernard Herrmann wrote the haunting score.

Would it have been better not to listen? Better to shut the windows against the noise, the pollution, the pollen, and everything else carried by the wind? Everyone has to make up their own mind about it, and things change and therefore minds change as well. Even a person who rarely feels lonely can suddenly understand what it means when experiencing the loss of a loved one, or when falling in love with someone whose absences leave a void filled only with reveries of times spent together and dreams of future unions.

Dutch harpist Lavinia Meijer performs “Metamorphosis Two”, by American composer Philip Glass. Mr. Glass wrote the piece in 1988 and recorded it in 1989, and in 2002 he incorporated it into his score for the film The Hours.

Patience with those gaps means as much as patience with one another in the times spent together. Being patient demonstrates trust in the other person and acknowledges vulnerability to them. There’s no use in rushing; haste will only create a shaky foundation. You don’t know where love came from, and much as you would like an end to anxiety by knowing where it is going, you can’t. A person might say, imploringly, to the wind if not to one’s beloved, “I didn’t know I was lonely until I met you, and now that I have fallen in love and experienced loneliness when we are apart, I wish an end to loneliness. Please comfort me by returning my love!” But all you can wisely do is listen, and open yourself up, and give generously without demanding a return. “Love is a thing full of anxious fears.” β€” Ovid
β€” Ed.

Linda Ronstadt sings lead, with harmonies by Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton, for their rendition of “Feels Like Home”, written by Randy Newman.


The Ear of the Beholder


There are two phenomena related to hearing that have opposite reactions from listeners and that often originate from food ingestion noises, one called misophonia and the other ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response). People with misophonia react angrily to certain sounds, and the peculiar thing is that people who are sensitive to ASMR can react with pleasure to the very same stimulus. In both cases, food noises are often the trigger, even though other noises, such as tapping, can serve as well.


Misophonia sufferers must cope with their condition using psychology and physical methods like earplugs or headphones with music. People who have tapped into how good ASMR can make them feel are watching YouTube videos, listening to audio tapes, and downloading applications to their phones which promise to give them the pleasant sensations they seek. In the case of the YouTube videos, there are ASMR performers who are making five or six figure incomes uploading content featuring themselves leisurely and noisily eating various items like raw honeycomb or ramen noodle soup.

Emily Shanks Scene in a Russian Hospital The Ear Inspection
Scene in a Russian Hospital: The Ear Inspection, an 1890s painting by Emily Shanks (1857-1936). The sources of misophonia and ASMR, while related to hearing, are most likely found in the brain, not in an overly sensitive ear.

There is no cure for misophonia, and for ASMR apparently no cure is necessary since it is relatively harmless. Some ASMR videos can make the activity seem more perverse and fetishistic than is probably healthy, but otherwise they usually fall under the category of “to each his own”. Since neither condition appears to be related to any hearing disorder, they both must be entirely psychological. No one knows precisely what adaptive purpose they might serve, although of the two it seems ASMR would be more useful because it encourages people’s understanding of what is good to eat. It would seem that people with misophonia are turned off from eating what others are eating because they are annoyed or even enraged by listening to them, regardless of how much the eaters appear to be enjoying their meal.

These two conditions appear to be opposite extremes on a spectrum, separated by a wide area of appreciation or disgust for food ingestion noises, none of which trigger significant emotional responses. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course, but it is interesting that visuals of extremes comparable to the auditory extremes in question here don’t appear to provoke as visceral a response. All the senses have particular areas of the brain devoted to them, and in the case of the older primary senses, it appears they bypass the evolutionary later overlay of reason and speak directly to core feelings.

A clip from an October 2012 episode of the animated TV show Family Guy, created by Seth MacFarlane, who was also the voice actor for the Peter Griffin character.

Such is the case with the sense of smell, which evokes memories to which we then struggle to add words. It could be that with hearing we understand at a distance what we need to either welcome or dread, and for a minority of people that understanding has gone off kilter for ill or good. For everybody else, besides the usual annoying food noises of too loud chewing or slurping, there is the screech of fingernails on a chalkboard or the squeak of styrofoam, and it’s baffling what may be the adaptive purpose of shuddering at those noises even though the actions creating them do not necessarily threaten us, but nearly everyone can attest how those noises pierce them to their core. We know only how unpleasant it is to hear them, and we are at a loss to express why.
β€” Izzy


A Thought Experiment


Imagine two men standing about an arms’ length from each other who have freedom of movement from the knees up, but cannot move their feet. Each man is rooted to his spot. One man’s concept of enjoying his limited space is to observe his surroundings quietly and otherwise keep to himself, in no way violating the space of his neighbor. The other man’s idea of enjoyment involves occasionally swinging his arms about, nearly hitting his neighbor, and shouting as he does so. That man violates his neighbor’s space but is unconcerned because he feels entitled to enjoy his space as he sees fit.


RiΓ±a a garrotazos
Fight with Cudgels, a painting from between 1819 and 1823 by Francisco Goya (1746-1828). Unlike the thought experiment in this post, both of the men in this painting are violently violating the space of the other, a situation that often results from the refusal of society to step in and restrain the initiator of violence.


That’s the situation in parts of the country where shooting or target practicing is allowed on plots of land as small as one or two acres. It’s unfathomable that local governments allow people to discharge firearms within such close proximity to their neighbors. Besides the danger, there is the frightening, intimidating noise. There is no clause within the Second Amendment absolving gun owners of treating their neighbors with common courtesy. Go to a firing range. If that is absolutely impossible, then buy at least a quarter section of land (160 acres) for your own use only, not as an unofficial firing range for friends and relatives as well as yourself. Guns and ammunition are expensive, and if you can afford them you can afford a larger plot of land or firing range fees. Stop indulging yourself on the cheap just because you can, and stop endangering your neighbors and violating their right to enjoy their property in peace and quiet. No one’s trying to take away your legal guns; stop shooting up your neighbors’ quality of life.

β€” Ed.