I live in an incredibly noisy part of Brooklyn. Yeah, expecting quiet in New York City is a fool’s errand, but it’s hard to overstate just how much noise my apartment is exposed to:
- Police/ambulance sirens, as many as 10-15 per hour
- Endless car honking from frustrated drivers
- Foghorn-sounding blasts from frustrated truckers
When I record my podcast at home, I usually can’t go more than 2-3 minutes on a take before I have to stop due to noise. I’m not a particularly sensitive sleeper, but I still need earplugs and a white-noise machine — and I still get woken up. There’s something about a deafening siren filling your room at 5:30 am that runs counter to one’s beauty rest.
All the noise used to drive me insane. The sirens I could reluctantly tolerate, because emergency services are saving lives, but the aggressive honking? I don’t need more reminders of how poor the average New Yorker’s emotional intelligence is.
But then I realized — I shouldn’t resent the honkers. In fact, I should be thanking them. Why?
Because they are my teachers.
They don’t realize it, but that’s OK. After all, the very best teachers don’t think about teaching. They just do.
Every day, my teachers get up early and make the long drive out to the intersection outside my window, and it is there that they practice their craft. They lay on their horns, issuing a gloriously irritating cavalcade of loud air, and — inviting me to accept that reality isn’t how I would want it to be.
That’s the trick, after all. Accommodating that which we cannot change. Accepting when things aren’t perfect.
The acceptance skill can’t be mastered, but it can be trained. This is why zen monks weed gardens for hours, in the cold — it’s training.
In their own sweet, precocious way, each Uber driver and trucker outside my window is doing their part to train me. Their noise pollution is a weight that I can pick up repeatedly to strengthen my muscles. Except in this case, the “muscle” is mental: the acceptance skill.
Instead of stewing silently as horns and sirens perforate my apartment like toxic gas, I wish cheer and goodwill towards those who are kind enough to help me train. I will actually think “Thank you!,” directed at every horn and siren I here.
They’re doing their part. I should do mine. And it beats fuming endlessly.