The Loud Neighbor

So my neighbors make a little bit of noise. Sometimes a lot of noise.

That’s fine. I’m okay with this. They have several kids. They live above us. Sometimes they have parties and want to play music. They laugh, they watch movies, they have an ordinary life. Sometimes that ordinary life is a little loud.

Again, I’m okay with this. Because I know, and am quite aware of the fact, that myself and my roommates are fairly loud as well. I know that most of the time our noise is kept at a sufficiently low volume that they don’t hear us, but then there are the times that we have parties, that we have late night movie showings, and we want to hear that T-Rex roar from Jurassic Park in our bones. And I’m aware that at those moments, they can probably hear us. I’d be surprised if they couldn’t.

Now, we’re not jerks. We save the loud movie nights for weekends when their kids are already staying up late and don’t have school, and keep our loudness within reasonable hours. And so do our neighbors. It’s an unspoken agreement between us, that even as neighbors who don’t speak the same language, we be courteous of one another’s lives. We understand that while there may be moments when we don’t want to hear party music at eleven at night … they do, and there were probably moments where they didn’t want to hear a T-Rex thundering around during the middle of their dinner … but we do, and so both of our parties shrug and move on, understanding that living in close proximity to one another, there’s bound to be some overlap from one life to the other that can create friction, but it’s not friction that causes anyone issue. It’s akin to the friction you get rubbing your hands together: Warm, and if left for a while, painfully hot, but if kept in moderation by both palms, just warm. A warmness that can be dealt with a lived with, because it’s not that uncomfortable.

Now, could one party or the other decide to take cause with things? Well, of course. We could decide to call the landlord and report our neighbors for “loudness.” They could do the same thing. And the instant that happens, trouble starts, because one of our groups stops giving the other party the same courtesy that they expect to be granted by others. And then both groups would likely start sniping at each other. Unless one group was willing to forgive the other, the trouble would continue to escalate.

Where am I going with this? Well, this is a bit of an allegory for life. We’re all going to create a little bit of friction with everyone else,  simply by existing. No one is perfect, and often creating friction may not be as a result of us doing something “bad” but simply doing something we like.

The trick is finding a neutral point between ourselves and everyone else where friction is minimized while still not suppressing people in an unfair manner.

And this is where a lot of “social” groups these days get it wrong. A lot of what’s being touted online and in social circles these days is the act of calling the landlord to complain about noise, while being just as loud on one’s own, but giving one’s self a free pass to be loud because you have the “right.” It’s wanting the freedom to do what you want, produce as much friction as you want, while not being willing to extend that same courtesy to others. It’s the kind of mentality that leads to things like “safe spaces” where only individuals of one sex or skin tone are allowed entry. Freedom to produce as much friction as possible while denying others the same freedom. One group is allowed to be “loud” while simultaneously “calling the landlord” to complain that the other group needs to be silent.

Is it a perfect allegory? No. But it still holds. We can’t be as loud as we want and expect that no one else be given the same treatment. We need to extend the courtesy that we give ourselves to others. If we don’t do that, then what are we doing but putting ourselves on a pedestal and pushing those around us down?

Because when you hold everyone else to a different standard than you do yourself, whether you’re lifting yourself above or pushing everyone else down, the end result is still the same: you look down on those around you.

Don’t be a bad neighbor. Show a little courtesy. Understand that you’re probably causing a little friction, and forgive a little in return. You’re probably somebody else’s loud neighbor in some way or another, and you might never know because they’re not letting it bother them.

Do the same and let the small stuff slide. It doesn’t have to bother you. Forgive a little.

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