It's amazing how inanity can pierce through amplified sound. The whispers, and then the emboldened blah blah blahs must possess some kind of special audio frequency.

There was a time (back when I had to walk 15 miles to and from school uphill both ways in 3 feet of snow - you remember those days) that a turn of the head or sidelong look at Mr. or Ms. Chatterbox could invoke the zip-it-please clause in the social contract.

No longer.

And we're not talking about unwrapping hard candies at the symphony. This is full-on yammering in places where people have gathered - concerts, meetings, movies.

I won't subject you to the entire scintillating discussion that drowned out most of a live-music show earlier this week. Suffice it to say the pithiness involved biology and an anatomical explanation of why "intelligent design" couldn't have happened, because no intelligent being would design male humans this way on purpose.

Such insight must have been far too potent to remain confined to the land of the unsaid.

How did we get to this?

Maybe the onslaught of marketing that tells us that how we order coffee, burgers, cars or cellphones makes us unique and special - how are those for two empty adjectives - feeds the illusion that we live in a world where everyone else belongs to our supporting cast.

A more serious erosion is at work here, however. When sharing becomes foisting, what's missing is empathy - the ability to see situations from another's point of view and acknowledge that what we do as individuals affects other people.

We're all guilty of bubble-living to some degree. We all have those days.

But the transition from empathy to resilience to consideration must be nurtured along the way.

And that, it seems to me, is what parenting is all about. It seems fitting, then, a few days before Mother's Day, to send out a big gracias to my parental units for all the ways they made sure that my brother and I knew that we were - are - loved, but that we don't exist in isolation.

Thanks for not telling me that plaid pants don't go with a striped shirt, because when you like them, they do. Thanks for not getting mad when I put pantyhose on my head to pretend I had long braids like Laura Ingalls and space side-buns like Princess Leia.

Thanks for knowing that the best and loudest instruments are pulled out of kitchen cabinets.

Thanks for giving me your Beatles records and not getting mad when I drew a heart under George on the back of "Meet the Beatles." Thanks for Elvis. And Chuck Berry. And Beethoven and Mancini. And bagpipes.

Thanks for getting mad, but not too mad, when my broken arm didn't keep me from getting in the refrigerator box and go hurtling down the neighbor's back hill. (Common sense vanishes in the presence of a pristine fridge box, we all know that.)

Thanks for pushing us. To walk, to run, to do better. To not let anyone's nosiness or judgment keep us from knowing we all have a place in the world.

Thanks for not coddling. For letting me fend for myself, knowing I have a haven if I need it. Thank you for opening the world with the pile of newspapers that covered the kitchen table every morning.

Thanks for yanking the television out of the wall and throwing it away. I didn't need to see the end of that "Brady Bunch" episode anyway.

Thank you for helping me understand that words have gravity. That imagination is necessary. That kids must stand on their own in new places.

Thank you for letting us find out that failure is transitory, not a state of being.

Thanks for my little brother and for letting us be friends - or not, depending on the day, the hour, the minute.

Thank you for being interested in the world outside our house. For being engaged and living the example of helping others. For making sure that we knew that not everyone lived the same way, and that we were, and are, fortunate in ways we couldn't understand then and still don't.

So I say thank you - because some thoughts do need to be shared, out loud and in public.

Sarah Garrecht Gassen writes opinion for the Arizona Daily Star. Her column appears on Thursdays. Email her at