Leaf Blowers, Noise, and Suburban Mating

Originally, I had intended to post a thorough rant about one of my favorite American annoyances:

Leaf blowers (and other forms of gas-powered lawn equipment that people see as indispensable these days).

But then I started to think that it would be far easier just to illustrate the nuisance in action — to capture it all in film. So I produced a short documentary on the topic. Well, actually, the flick is more of a mockumentary with a twist of sci-fi thriller. Regardless, the movie is called The Leafinator, and it just might end up winning me an Academy Award. Here’s the blurb:

The Leafinator is a blockbuster sci-fi thriller about cyborg lawn equipment sent back in time to destroy a man who dreams of a future free from annoying technology.

The full film can be found here:

The trailer, here:

Films, however — even those of exceptional quality (which mine is not) — can only dig so deep, mostly, I think, because of their reliance on force-fed imagery. So I shall now try to supplement my cinematic artistry with philosophical elaboration.


Now then, there’s a lot to hate about leaf blowers and other such landscaping devices.

First, they are so loud that you can literally hear them from a half-mile away. So just think what it must be like for the people who live next door. Bahahaha! Just kidding. Screw ’em, right? Who cares if your neighbors want or need quiet time to rest or read or think or meditate or go about their business in their own home? To hell with others’ privacy when there’s dirt and grass to blow off sacred concrete pathways!

Secondly, leaf blowers kick up enormous clouds of dust and dirt, animal excrement, mold and mildew, herbicides and fertilizers, and other allergens (e.g., pollen, grasses, etc.). Yeah. So why not just blast all that noxious stuff up into the air and let it sprinkle back down wherever it may land, say, on top of your neighbor’s kids while they play in their own back yard? Who cares where it all lands, just as long as it doesn’t desecrate your concrete shrines.

another man with blower - Copy

Wikimedia Commons. By Josh Larios.

Thirdly, using gas-powered leaf blowers makes you an asshole. If you think it’s necessary to shoot tiny twigs and particles of wood, leaves, and dead grass through space, jamming them through the tight slits under my doors and windows, thereby covering the inside of my house and car with a fine powder of stuff that you, for some reason, don’t think belongs in a yard — well, then, you’re the worst kind of asshole.

Fourthly, rakes and brooms work better and don’t make you seem like a moron. If having dirt, leaves, and twigs lying around outside is a real problem for you, then please realize that blowers seriously fail to address that problem. Why? Because they just move stuff from one place to another. Like a child pushing toys under a bed, leaf blowers don’t clean and remove. They merely rearrange and hide, which forces you to deal with the problem again and again. Brooms and dust pans, rakes and bags, however… Well, either you get it or you don’t.

rake woman - Copy

This wise lady gets it.

Fifthly, as I understand it, leaf blowers and other mega-powerful lawn equipment harm the environment because of the gas they guzzle, the unregulated pollutants they emit, and the excessively loud and unnatural noises they produce (which prevent birds and bees from doing what they need to do to keep the ecosystem thriving). Now, this last concern is something I can neither confirm nor deny myself. So I’ll just stick to what I do know: using leaf blowers, etc. seriously interferes with human health and sanity. But if they also chase away pollinating critters and erode topsoil, then, yeah, that sucks, too.

Speaking of sucking: If only leaf blowers sucked then they wouldn’t suck so bad!


All this said, a case can be made, I think, for electric blowers since they are nowhere near as powerful or loud. But you’re still just sweeping stuff under the rug, right? And I would say that even large gas-powered blowers have some uses. Certainly never in urban or suburban areas — but maybe in large rural areas on secluded properties with lots of trees. Maybe.

About the suburbs: industrial-strength lawn equipment + suburbs = total senselessness. These days, equipment is louder and more powerful, while yards are smaller and houses closer together. I currently live within a stone’s throw of 10-12 houses. So there is quite literally rarely a time that I don’t hear some machine or another wailing away in the distance in an off-key pitch or even vibrating my walls.

a shampoo and a blow dry - Copy

A shampoo and blow dry, suburban-style. Photo: Joshua J. Reynolds

Then there’s those who “pressure wash” and shampoo their beloved concrete pathways. The ritual tends to last no less than four hours. So if this is what the idiot next door has scheduled for his Saturday afternoon, then you better hope that you don’t have anything relaxing planned for your own yard. Besides, yards aren’t meant to be enjoyed. They’re for landscaping and blasting with machines. I’m fairly certain that God says this somewhere in the Bible.


So why all the noise? Why the perceived need to keep your lawn looking tweezed, plucked, waxed, plastic, and sculpted? Why the obsession to keep up appearances? I mean, what’s so wrong with this yard?

hobbit house - Copy

Quick! Somebody call the HOA!

Keep in mind, a pretty exterior often conceals an ugly, miserable interior. I’m sure that the fellow who lives in the home pictured above couldn’t be happier with existence. So one can only imagine what the people who live in the house below are trying to hide.

white house - Copy

Regardless, it all seems bizarre if you put the tiniest amount of thought to it. Why can’t a single blade of grass ever touch one’s concrete? Why the desire literally to dig a small trench between the clean artificial concrete and the dirty but natural stuff of earth?

ditch arrows copy.jpg

Photo: Joshua J. Reynolds

The answers aren’t difficult to find if you consider the suburban mentality. Key here is the obsession to mark off one’s “property” as one’s own, separate and distinct from another’s property and from nature. This is the grass-farming suburbanite’s raison d’être. Fences and rows of bushes do the trick nicely. But nothing says “Mine, not yours” as decisively as the moat-like ditch that a lawn edger digs!

sculpted edges copy.jpg

Photo: Joshua J. Reynolds

And all that plasticity? Well, that’s just suburbanites telling nature to go screw itself:

John and Mindy Grass-Farmer live here now, Nature, and we’re here to stay!

In other words, edged trenches, shampooed driveways, waxen bushes, and leafless lawns are no more than tokens of identity and pride, just like tattoos, crucifixes, ball caps, and bumper stickers.

family sticker - Copy

“Our bushes are better than yours!”

Leaf blowers and other such devices offer people who fall short in, say, artistic or intellectual respects, a way to project an image — a way to carve out an arbitrary place in the world. This goes for the noise they make as well, which presents, as it were, a sonic image. In satisfying the primitive instinct to ward off would-be intruders, the release of a loud, threatening sound also helps powerless people to feel important and strong. It’s the modern-day battle cry.

Think about it: How many folks do you think would choose a leaf blower that was totally silent over an equally powerful one that was insanely loud? Be honest. Would you? Wouldn’t you think something was missing? Wouldn’t you think that it wasn’t serving its purpose somehow? That’s because most people find noise comforting.

It’s helpful to understand this in a comparison to Harley motorcycle riders. Can you imagine so many of them riding around in packs on weekend afternoons if their “bikes” didn’t utter a peep?

But, but, but… Loud pipes save lives!

Wrong. This is just one of the many nonsense myths that people regurgitate these days, so much so that it’s almost taboo to deny it. But I will happily deny it:

Loud pipes do not save lives. Nor were they ever intended to do so.

Why not? Well, first, because this idea suggests that bikers who end up getting creamed on the road just weren’t making enough noise. That is ridiculous. It puts the blame somewhere it really shouldn’t be, and that’s not helpful. Hell, screw my seat belt. I’m just gonna drive around honking my horn so people don’t hit me.

Second, if “saving lives” were the real goal, then more bikers would wear neon pink or green vests instead of dark leather duds with cool logos. Also, helmets, you would think, save more lives than loud ‘vrooms’. So why do bikers who don’t wear them bother to modify their pipes to increase the noise?

saving lives - Copy

Saving lives

Third, folks here in the South (esp., redneck men) tend to drive around in lifted 4×4 pickups with modified exhaust systems that roar every bit as loudly as Harley “pipes.” So are these idiots saving lives, too? What about teens who drive lowered Civics with mufflers that sound like a pig sodomizing an antique lawn mower?

Not saving lives - Copy

Not saving lives. (Wikimedia Commons. By Artaxerxes.)

Fourth, the “pipes” of a crotch rocket have no problem reaching those cool, deafening decibel levels. But a good number of people who ride such bikes have no problem flying down the highway at 110 mph, zipping in and out of lanes, cutting people off, and coming up along cars faster than you can turn your head.

Fifth, riders of motorcycles go ‘vroom vroom’ the most whenever they are sitting idle in a parking lot or rolling through an otherwise serene town square at 5 mph. Whew, thanks for saving all those lives, guys! Y’all are true American heroes! Please don’t worry about damaging the hearing of people walking along sidewalks or enjoying their lunch outside. Just keep savin’ lives!

Finally, the largest and loudest vehicle on the highway is the semi-truck. Still, people cruising down the Interstate in cars seem to have no problem at all finding the sides of semis. Fact: the loudest, most conspicuous vehicle on the highway is also the most dangerous. Go figure.

So there you have it. Loud “pipes” are not meant to save lives at all. The point, rather, is simple: you make your “bike” emit such noise so that you will stick out. Noise is your brand, your calling card. Your clothes are loud. Your hair, beard, and tats are loud. Your TV is loud. Your kids and dog are loud. So why not be heard a mile away by an old lady at home in her rocking chair when you’re heading to the store to grab some smokes?

The same goes for leaf blowers, which allow the blower and his/her yard to stick out. Like loud motorcycles, they serve to mark the owner’s territory as distinctive, obvious, attractive. But why do that? Why all the attention whoring? It’s simple: to attract potential mates. No really, think about it. The shaft-like blow pipe of a leaf blower is a whopper of a phallic symbol. And what about all that pointless reving:

Rawr, raawwr, raaawwrrr… vrrooom, vrooooooom….

Does this not sound familiar? Squeeze the trigger and feel that tool throb in your hands. Just like a Harley dude in a parking lot who senselessly revs his engine while idling, a guy with a leaf blower gets off exciting his own engine once or twice real quick just to feel it jerk and convulse, even when it’s blowing nothing.

Most importantly, the job of a leaf blower is to penetrate, to cross boundaries, to intrude where it does not belong. When you’re trying to read or relax and your neighbor is proudly stroking his blower, forcefully ejecting stuff from his property onto yours, penetrating your walls with his own sound and substance against your will — how could this be seen as anything other than mental rape?


leaves on ground - Copy

Fall is time to choke and deafen your loved ones. The alternative is just too horrible.

In summary, leaf blowing, edging, trimming, obsessive mowing — it’s all really part of an elaborate suburban mating ritual. Suburban Man, you see, enjoys the illusion of controlling protruding cylindrical objects that shoot stuff outwards — tailpipes, guns, pressure wands, etc. For some reason, this makes him feel proud, powerful, and dominant. So he never hesitates to show off this pride, even to those who don’t consent. But bear in mind:

Loud pipes tell lies.

Suburban Man wants to give the impression that he is massive and strong, master of his territory. He uses powerful machines to reassure himself and others that his own biological equipment is just as potent. But Suburban Man is a fool. In reality, he’s an insecure, child-like weakling who plays with toys. Sure, his mechanical grunts and growls may drown out the mating calls of other men on the block, and so will probably lure a Suburban Woman. But we should see it all for what it really is. As Freud said:

Zie louder zie blower, zie smaller zie wiener.

Freud - Copy

© Joshua J. Reynolds 2018. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Advertisements

“Windowless I”

Lies
They all lie

Freak show media
Consciousness machine
Tribal game hurls out
Reflexive conditioning

“Thou shalt not alter the consciousness of thy fellow man”
“Thou shalt not prevent thy fellow man from altering his own consciousness”

Freed from my filter
Panoramic sea
World of white light whirls
Into backwards memories

Mind betrayed by space and time
The three collide
Raw sensations amplified
Conscious state clarified

Gauge explain
Weigh narrate
Analyze
Fabricate

Eyes portray a frame unseen
No boundaries
Sympathetic unity
Synchronous harmonies

Insignificance is my significance
My significance is insignificant

Arrogance a place inside
Some grand design
My separation justified
Windowless I

Lyrics © Joshua J. Reynolds 2014. All rights reserved.


“Which is better – to be born stupid into an intelligent society or intelligent into an insane one?” (Aldous Huxley, Island).

Philosophers are full of shit and always have been. For centuries, they have drooled and tripped all over themselves trying to identify (solely in their minds) the basic building-blocks of reality. These ‘substances’, as they called them, are supposed to be whatever remains once you have ‘stripped away’ (in your mind) all the properties from a thing. A person is still a person, for example, whether black or blonde hair, dark or light skin, 4’6” or 6’10”, twelve or seventy-eight years old, male or female, sick or healthy. Such properties are temporary and incidental to the ‘being’ or ‘substance’ of a person, whatever that happens to be.

In the late 17th century, German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz postulated that the world consists of an indefinite number of such substances. He called these ‘monads’. Each of these monads, he thought, can only affect itself. On this view, each thing in the world is truly distinct from all others and cannot, therefore, interact with anything else. Instead, things only appear to interact with each other. Their actions have been programmed in advance by god to harmonize with the actions of other things.

Leibniz's hair is entirely its own entity, distinct from all else.

Leibniz’s hair is entirely its own entity, distinct from all else.

A result of this view is that cause and effect are not real. Let’s say I throw this philosophy book. The book hits the wall. A dent appears in the wall. The book’s pages tear. Leibniz would deny that I caused the book to fly through the air. He would argue that the book did not in fact cause the dent in the wall any more than the wall caused the pages to rip. Rather, the book was preprogrammed by god to take off through the air at the precise moment I opened my moving hand. A certain portion of the wall, in turn, was preprogrammed to crumble at the precise moment the book came into contact with it, just as god had put it into the nature of the book’s pages to rip, entirely by themselves, immediately after the book had hit the wall.

The point to all this is that there is no direct causal or perceptual relationship between one substance and any of the others. You can’t, as it were, ‘see’ into substances and you cannot ‘see’ out of them. They are ‘windowless’. They exist and do what they do entirely on their own, without being caused to act and without acting upon anything else. It may seem that things interact with each other in the world, or at least have the power to do so, but they do not. This, you see, is simply god’s ‘pre-established harmony’.

Now this is mostly bullshit, of course. But it does offer a great model for viewing the self (minus the divinely pre-established harmony junk). The lyrics of “Windowless I,” the second track from Depths of Distrust, take on this perspective. They are also inspired by the writings of various other authors, such as Aldous Huxley, Herman Hesse, Timothy Leary and Carl Jung.

“Lies. They all lie.” In Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, after the protagonist withdraws from society, he begins to realize that “everything lied, stank of lies,” as he walked through town, scornfully glancing at pretty women, well-dressed people, business men and traders, princes and prostitutes, priests, lovers and mourners.

“Everybody lies” – House M.D.

“Windowless I” begins in the realization that society is comprised of lies – incessant efforts to conceal, embellish, spin, ignore, mislead, and appropriate words to twist their meanings. People have grown so accustomed to it that they neither notice nor care. They expect lies and would feel empty and awkward without them in social contexts. Lying is the business of politicians, advertisers and corporations, as well as the mainstream media, priests, professors and scientists. All of it to maintain status, to save face and deflect from hypocrisy, to subtly impose one’s will on the masses, to mark oneself off as a member of some tribe.

The media bias is especially obvious. Yet people only pretend to care. They like it that way. The use of catchwords, slogans and symbols rather than critical thought is especially prevalent here — all to instill conditioned reflexes in voters, to keep them distracted and prevent the sort of rational thought that would topple their empire of false imagery.

The tools used to perpetuate lies are symbols. Symbols are public. But what happens inside each person is private. Think of the so-called ‘cross’. Only one person can understand the sense of spiritual ecstasy, awe, personal helplessness, guilt, and/or feelings of cosmic significance that ground his or her own choice to identify with the cross as some sort of personal symbol. These experiences are as private as an individual’s particular sensation of pleasure or pain. There is no way of passing such experiences on to another person. The only possibility of communication is indirectly through symbols. So one symbol, in this case, the cross, stands for millions of private experiences.

The problem is that symbols seriously over-simplify reality. They replace thought with mere reaction, which is only surface-deep. Trusting a pair of blue jeans because it has the right sort of label, believing a person with a cop uniform and badge, and embracing someone who wears cross-jewelry is like accepting or rejecting a Christmas present based solely on the wrapping paper.

Symbols are meant to limit experience and constrain thought. Stimulus in, preprogrammed response out. The previous post on “Servitude” compared them to “the crack of the whip a master uses to rouse a slave into action without question.” Symbols are the bonds whereby the powers-that-be control the masses. Media and advertisers, politicians and priests: They speak your language but have no idea what you want or need. Nor do they care. In reality, there is no such thing as ‘Democrat’ or ‘Republican’ — only two supposedly opposing tribes consisting of individuals who identify with each other solely on the superficial basis of slogans and clichés.

Hairstyles, clothing, catchphrases, gestures, body art, piercings, cranial accessories, shoes and the like: None of this is truly significant as expressions of the self. They are as lifeless as a photo of a beautiful woman when compared to her presence in motion. Such symbolic behaviors serve merely to indicate membership in a tribe. Think of those supposedly ‘badass’ motorcycle packs, which tend to employ deafening sonic symbols to mark their territory. If Harleys made no noise at all, but were just as powerful and ‘cool’ looking, would anyone want to ride them? Far fewer, for sure. That is because society values the container over the content.

“The F Word,” South Park, 2009

I am reminded of a scene in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian.” Brian, the mistaken messiah, abandons his sandal in flight. Meanwhile his followers stop pursuing him and passionately debate whether “the shoe is the sign.” They then go on to contemplate whether the shoe is a shoe or a sandal, and if it is a sign, what it means and how they should react, and if it is not a sign, what other things that happen to be around them might be signs of the messiah. Following this obsessive display of symbol-worship, the crowd runs off to continue their search for the messiah himself.

This scene nicely depicts the eagerness of people to follow and prioritize empty symbols to the exclusion of what they are supposed to symbolize. It shows the human tendency to see symbols everywhere, even where they are not or cannot be; and if they are present, to misinterpret them, giving them far more favorable significance than they are worth. I mean, the crowd got so caught up in symbolism that they forgot about the guy they thought was their savior!

Living a life predominately dictated by symbols reveals a mind that has been conditioned to respond, follow, and obey rather than to think. It is a mind stuffed with arbitrary categories that filter and censor the vastly more complicated flow of reality.

One might choose to escape this tribalistic freak show by seeking alternative forms of enlightenment, e.g., through drug use (as in the 1960s LSD phenomenon), spiritual quests, meditation, holistic lifestyles, etc. — all of which supposedly lead to feelings of intensity, epiphany, and of touching something universal and eternal. These experiences have been said to involve sensing boundaries between oneself and the world vanish. They supposedly allow feelings of hope and the sense that the universe has deeper meaning. They provide, it is said, a harmonious connection with others, the whole earth, with life in general — a feeling of being united in mind and body and of relating to everything as a part of a greater whole.

But this is tribalism come full circle. What is the satisfaction of feeling that you are a mere pawn and part of some grand design? Why the need for such connection? The universe is absurd and ultimately unknowable. Can’t one just find satisfaction and meaning in accepting that? The search for, trust in, and mass appeal to symbols comes from the need to feel significant. But so does seeking a transcendental connection to the universe. Ultimately, admitting insignificance and lack of connection is the only true significance. Labels just don’t stick.

In the end, if there really is some grand design of which I am part, then isn’t my sense of separation just part of that? Who is society to judge my separation or to eschew values that are centered on the individual and emphasize disconnection? What of the atheist, the skeptic, the misanthrope, the cynic, the egoist, the nihilist, and the solipsist? Why the stigmas against such individuals when such lives are truer to the flow of reality than that of the superficial, tribalistic symbol-worshiper? If everything really happens according to a plan, then wouldn’t their abandonment of religion and/or society just be part of that plan?

In the end it doesn’t matter. True belonging and participation are as impossible as experiencing another person’s feelings or understanding their thoughts. Any claim to be part of god’s plan or some cosmic scheme is simply human arrogance and on a par with finding patterns that resemble human beings in the chaos of billions of stars in the night sky.

Who am I? I might apply endless labels: ‘American’, ‘man’, ‘middle class’, ‘white’, ‘musician’, ‘teacher’, ‘writer’, ‘editor’, ‘citizen’, ’40 year-old’, ‘progressive rock fan’, ‘libertarian’, ‘drummer’, ‘philosopher’, ‘atheist’, ‘skeptic’ — all ultimately as meaningless as a mask, badge or uniform. Several of these, in fact, can be used by social forces to categorize and control a person. Impermanent marks of tribalistic identity are helpful in a superficial society. But are they truthful? In the end, the only true identity is ‘I am I’.

© Joshua J. Reynolds 2015. All rights reserved.