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 coffee shop 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 coffee shops 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