Brazilian Human Termites Versus Westfield Ones

As published in the Westfield Leader.

I’m not sure whether this is a lamentation or an observation, but here goes! When Rock Hudson, the famous movie actor, flew to Paris to receive an experimental drug for AIDS which the FDA would not permit him to be treated with here, “Good Morning America” invited me to debate the FDA director on the reasons why. On the program, I stressed that doctors at Sloan-Kettering are fully capable of administering the drug, and this FDA restrictive policy on clinical research was significantly responsible for our lack of cures in general. Even today, just ask yourself, “When was the last cure?” There was a room where guests were seated awaiting their turn to appear. Next to me was a young man who was starring in a movie which took place in the Amazon jungle. Part of the story involved how the Amazon forest was being systematically destroyed by men-driven bulldozers and how the jungle natives were scared to death about it. They called the men-machine duo “human termites.” But it was not only the visible destruction of the jungle that frightened them but, equally, also the accompanying unsettling sounds. They could, even at great distances, hear the approaching human termites inexorably “termiting” away. Then it happened. The Brazilian human termites invaded Westfield. They have mutated and, instead of primarily destroying trees with bulldozers — though they still are to a lesser degree — they are relentlessly termiting grass with lawnmowers and blowers. Though this type of termiting doesn’t disturb me, the sound of the lawnmowers and leaf blowers does. But that ain’t all. Surrounding me five homes have been noisily partially or completely torn down and are either in the process of being or already re-built. About 10 old tall trees (on an adjoining property only) are in the process of termitation with ear-bursting buzz saws and wood grinders. Within a stone’s throw there was the screeching sounds of stone cutting followed by slate cutting on a home being expanded. Now I don’t want anyone feeling sorry for me, but I have a swimming pool and enjoy spending my time outdoors reading, writing, drinking and dining. But these strident, metallic, grating, high-pitched and inhuman, tranquility-destroying, piercing sounds rob me of such pleasures. They are incessant! The great philosopher, Aristotle, believed that happiness is found in contemplation – thinking and wondering about things and life. And I agree. The cranky and cynical philosopher, Schopenhauer, mightily hated noise, both as a destroyer of the ability to contemplate and, as a result, tranquility. And I agree. I am puzzled by the silence of my neighbors. Unlike the Brazilian natives, however, they live entirely in sound-proof indoors, venturing out only for work and other activities. The solution? I have, like my neighbors, retreated into the confines of my home to the quiet of my soundproof study, enjoying my martini and reading Wordworth’s Tintern Abbey. Bah humbug!

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