Monday, June 13, 2011

The Alchemic Rule

Alchemy - n : a form of chemistry and speculative philosophy practiced in the Middle Ages and the renaissance and concerned principally with discovering methods for transmuting baser metals into gold
It's not as pure in intentions or as optimistic (read: utopian) in its hopes for humankind as The Golden Rule (i.e., do unto others as you would have them do unto you), but perhaps precisely because of that, the older I get the more I'm convinced a more practical approach to promoting peace on earth is what I've come to consider the "Alchemic Rule."

Admittedly, the Alchemic Rule will probably never produce the standard of goodwill toward all that the Golden Rule strives for. Still it's useful in how it remains concerned with transmuting baser human habits into at least tolerable behavior. Essentially it boils down to "Do unto others what they're doing to you," but I prefer to reframe it a bit more generously: "Force others to experience what they're putting you through to help them reconsider their actions." Like the Golden Rule, it's an E.M. Forster sort of approach, assuming that if people connect the dots between what annoys them and their own behaviors, eventually they'll stop being annoying toward others. The Alchemic Rule simply speeds the process along.

As an example, for years I fantasized about developing a remote control that could cut off the car horns of those self-absorbed drivers who feel it's their God-given right to deafen all the pedestrians within a 50-foot radius just because they've been delayed a nanosecond or two. (I don't expect folks who don't walk within major metropolitan centers to understand, but the blast of a horn mere feet from you ears is more than a rude disruption of the peace, it's frequently quite jolting and can even be painful.) Idiots who lay on them rather than give the driver ahead of them the benefit of their doubt that a momentary pause wasn't designed as a personal torture are a scourge in Manhattan's busier intersections.

The problem with my remote control idea, or anything that takes away a driver's use of their car's warning device, of course, is that sometime a horn is legitimately needed to avoid an accident. Sometimes it's legitimately needed to alert a driver ahead or, yes, even a pedestrian, that they're not paying adequate attention.

Applying the Alchemic Rule, however, I'm convinced that the more aggressive or boorish behavior that comes from the autonomy horn abusers currently feel would subside. And therefore, my new fantasy is legislation that forces car manufacturers to ensure the exact volume and intensity from a horn blast heard outside one's car is also produced inside one's car, directed right at the driver. This in no way limits a driver's ability to warn others when dangerous situations truly arise, or even to tap on their horn when the person ahead of them has fallen asleep at the wheel. It simply ensures they'll be subjected to the same degree of painful noise pollution they're inflicting on those around them.

I've had a similar idea in response to stompy upstairs neighbors (although this one is much more complex...giving you perhaps some idea of how many hours I've spent fuming over this). After years of living in an apartment with paper-thin floors above me, I've come to understand the shortcoming of the broom-handle-meets-ceiling approach is that the culprit is generally not in a state of mind to appreciate why you're objecting to their noise. They're either having a party or stumbling in drunk or hurrying to get ready to leave or otherwise unable to relate to the calm situation they're disrupting. "What's the big deal...we're not walking that heavily...it's not that loud," they've responded. Well, not when you hear it over the music you're blasting or are more concerned about how late you are, no. But in my apartment where I'm trying to read or sleep, it is (or had been) relatively much quieter, and hence your stomping is much, much more pronounced.

Applying the Alchemic Rule here, therefore requires something a bit more nuanced than raps on the ceiling when they're running around. It requires sending the same noise back into their apartment within the same context they had sent noise into yours. In other words, when they're attempting to enjoy the peace and quiet of their apartment. I'm still working on the details of this response, but essentially it involves a recording device that captures the number and intensity of the stomps or dropping of heavy objects, connected to a mechanical woodpecker attached on the ceiling, with a timer, etc. etc...you get the idea. Sending the same noise back when the upstairs neighbor would prefer to have quiet would hopefully encourage more consideration at other times.

OK, so I know how insane that's beginning to make me sound. I've actually decided it's simply easier to move to a new apartment....hopefully one with concrete floors or one on the top floor of the building. I outlined it here merely as another example of how The Alchemic Rule reverses the "do unto others" concept, assuming most people will connect (or "get it") much more quickly when they're forced to experience what they're putting others through.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Gam said...

sounds like a tough day or weekend - wish you a wonderful day Mr Winkleman

(I'm bigger fan of the future isn't dependant on the past axim)

6/13/2011 12:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Michelle said...

I must laugh,I met the alchemy quotient with my old downstairs neighbor.After several attempts to ask her to cease playing her very very loud music at 6am, as was her morning routine- One night,after another early morning confrontation, I turned my very large bass amp into the floor and proceeded to play bass at 1am. She stopped playing her music after that. :)
hope your neighbors improve their etiquette, I sold my SVT/Ampeg bass gear,otherwise I could let you borrow them!

6/13/2011 11:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so very sorry you're having to deal with this, and no, you're not old or cranky or crazy.

Unfortunately, moving may be the only option.

I dealt with this for years at my old studio space. I tried calmly asking, reminding, gave a plant as a peace offering and finally was able to move my studio.

In my case the studio and their small warehouse was separated only by one sheet of drywall, she had her radio attached to the wall, she came in to turn the heater on at 7am, turned the radio on at that time, then left for her office in another part of town. Returned 4 hours later to meet UPS, left until about 3pm when she returned to pick up boxes for the following day. Her radio was on the entire time, even though she was only in her unit for about 1-2 hours a day. Drove me mad, but I was the 'crazy' one according to her because 'everyone' should like her choice of music. She was a middle age woman who...well, perhaps you realize you've hit a nerve. My only suggestion is ear plugs, although that isn't always possible and only toned down her music and didn't make it go away.

6/14/2011 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I've learned that there are people who can ignore such noise and people, like myself and most of my family members, to tell the truth, who are remarkably distracted by it...to the point that we can't focus on anything else. Perhaps it's genetic.

6/14/2011 10:37:00 AM  

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