Lärm, or noise, always consists of two components — a sound, and a conscious mind that apprehends it. Seneca knew this, which is why he, a Stoic, believed that noise need not rob him of his inner peace. In this, he could not have been more different from Schopenhauer, who thought that sensitivity to noise bespoke special mental powers, and developed a model for cultivating it. What makes a person perceive a particular sound as noise? What is crucial is not only the state of mind of the person who hears noise, but also, surprisingly, the social status of the one causing it. Another important factor is whether the sound in question can be avoided or, if need be, escaped.
Sieglinde Geisel is a journalist who works primarily for Neue Zürcher Zeitung and Deutschlandradio. Her writing has also appeared in Die Zeit, Lettre International, and Sinn und Form. In 2010 Galiani Berlin published her book Nur im Weltall ist es wirklich still. Vom Lärm und der Sehnsucht nach Stille, on noise and our yearning for quiet. In addition to writing, Geisel works as a freelance editor and teaches literary criticism at the Free University of Berlin.