Then one day, upon arising into the quiet post-shouting hour, I left the earplugs in. I went about my morning in the apartment and then ventured outside with the earplugs still in my ears. I could hear people speaking, I could hear sounds, but it all took place at a remove. And yet I did not feel farther away from everything. I moved through the streets as though in a dream, but, as with a dream, somehow more attentive and aware than usual. Up to that point the purpose of earplugs was to keep things out. Now I perceived a new dimension to earplugs—to keep things in.
I keep a pair of earplugs in a case on my keychain. I rarely wear them in non-musical situations (well, a couple of the bands I wear them with might qualify as non-musical situations), but wear them often on loud gigs, or especially when I am an audience member and the music is loud. The remove that Beller speaks of has come in handy on some socially and musically painful, but very well paying gigs. I am trying to steer away from those sorts of gigs these days, but the earplugs are still on my keychain.