In Seneca’s essay “On Noise” the reader initially encounters a hypothetical array of distractions that the speaker has set forth in order to prove a point. In this essay, the speaker discusses two types of distractions: external distractions that detract from one’s senses, and internal distractions that detract from one’s sense of reason. The speaker goes back and forth between the distractions discussing the various effects of each type. In “On Noise” Seneca illustrates that in order for one to be completely free from distractions, one must first completely eliminate all internal turmoil, so that the external distraction is not enough to break one’s internal peace.
In his opening paragraph, the speaker proclaims that he cannot understand people who need to shutter themselves away in complete silence in order to study, essentially undermining the power of external distractions. The speaker continues to rattle through a myriad of external distractions, and although he classifies some distractions as more inclined to distract than others, he is able to “force my mind to become self-absorbed and not let outside things distract it” (Seneca, 6). The speaker does acknowledge that this self absorption is not an easy task to accomplish, and goes even further to say that voices are inclined to disrupt this because they “actually catch one’s attention” as opposed to various random noise that “merely fills one’s ears, battering away at them” (Seneca, 5). The speaker spends about a third of the essay discussing these external distractions and exclaiming which ones are more inclined to distract him, such as intermittent noises are more distracting than continuous noises, but then immediately flips and says that he is able to tune these out and turn his attention to his mind and internal thoughts: “There can be absolute bedlam without so long as there is no commotion within, so long as fear and desire are not at loggerheads, so long as meanness and extravagance are...
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