A recurring theme for me is that of signal versus noise. The Information Age is awash with noise, but that can drown out the signals. I often wonder what we are not picking up while gulching on oceans of information.
This quotation comes from a superb trilogy of novels by a Hungarian aristocrat who was at the heart of the events he describes, taking a loving but hard look at his class and their failures in the run up – or down – to the First World War. Here he mentions the signals they missed, or ignored, at their peril.
It resonates now, and perhaps in all ages, and is a timely reminder to avoid being deafened by noise at the expense of signal.
‘The general peace that Europe had known since 1878 finally came to an end in the summer of 1911. The year began without any apparent change but then gradually a few hardly noticeable signs appeared whose significance was only understood much later and then only by those whose business it was to search out the truth of what had occurred. Though these little signposts were so scattered and apparently trivial, for the few who understood such things they showed only too clearly that the general air of calm throughout Europe was at best only an illusion. They were like the faint grey mist on the horizon at sunset or the soft mysterious murmur that precedes an earthquake.’
Turn down the volume and see if you can better hear the signal.
Source: Miklos Banffy, They Were Divided, trans. Patrick Thursfield and Katalin Banffy-Jelen (London: Arcadia Books, 2001 (1940)), p. 86
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