A stillness hodgepodge:
Delivering a message, without an attack on your nerves
vol. 4 issue 14
Today is a noise-free day for me. Not sound-free, just noise-free.
After tiring of the assault on my nerves suffered in my urban environment back home in Washington, I am slowly but surely feeling the tonic of silence here in the rural South.
Unlike suburban Washington — where if it can screech, whine, whir, honk, or blare, expect it to do so, and at full blast, usually all at the same time — here, it is relatively free of the leaf blowers, the trash hauling trucks with insane medleys of beeps and trills, and the piercing and incessant back-up beep-beep delivery truck alarms that since the pandemic especially, have come to sound at all hours, every day.
They are the most offensive to my ability to remain at ease, the cacophonous reminders that it’s Jeff Bezos’s universe and we’re just living in it. My nerves are so much the better without that man and his mission, even if I know better than to think the future isn’t already indelibly shaped by what he has in store.
Sometimes, I just have to turn inside, turn down the noise, turn away from “progress” as we know it. The linear march of men like Bezos, whose motto while in search of world dominance is, gradatim ferociter, “one step after another, ferociously”, doesn’t stop for the abyss: it just plunges its troops and all their on-demand packages of rice puffs and romance novels right off the cliff. Wheeee — there go all the lemmings on Prozac.
The noise that is most likely to interrupt my work while I am away from the city comes from the 5 (5!!!!) Sharp-shinned hawks sitting on the branch outside my window, squawking to one another before soaring off in search of lightly crunchy snacks.
Until yesterday, I imagined they were discussing whether, between the lot of them, they might successfully take on the owl my mother has at last situated as sentry on the deck railing to protect the songbirds at the feeder.
As of now, though, the situation is shifting: one of them took a test flight, using his talons to strafe the head of the owl. I reckon he’s calculating the inertia of the crepuscular raptor might be more to do with him being made of plastic than the hour of the day.
I fear the feeder-turned-hawk-vending-machine is once again about to start dispensing treats. Watch out little song birdies!
The danger here is that I lose myself in the unfolding drama of nature, rather than collapse into the desperate defeat of ceaseless and often unnecessary noise.
Earlier this week, I met someone who “gets” what I am talking about when I extoll the virtues of silence and rest. The Rev. Julian Reid, a musician and theologian out of Chicago, who has created a series of retreats for organizations in search of the restorative power of stillness. His clientele is varied, from the London Philharmonic to the Yale Divinity School. Above is a link to a lovely concert given by Julian and his acclaimed jazz band, the Juju Exchange.
Julian and I were in conversation about the 4th of July shooting in Highland Park. We discussed how shootings in white communities are treated compared to those in black ones. But we also discussed that people become intact when they withdraw from the noise around them, doing so with purposeful intention to be still. In the stillness there is so much wisdom and wholeness. That is where we can draw our strength to face the pain and trauma that will persist, so long as we have a significant number of men in power who clearly like the carnage of random mass murders or they would not continue to find ways to accommodate it, as my fellow commentator Greg Olear so accurately points out.
After Julian’s and my conversation, I reflected on the noise and chaos of that moment in Highland Park where the suspect was soon apprehended without much incident. There was a lot of hollerin’, particularly in the national media, especially compared to the relative lack of national noise that largely surrounded the lethal hail of bullets that killed a young black suspect fleeing on foot in Akron, OH, even though that elicited protests and a state of emergency to be called by the state’s governor.
In all, I just can’t see the point to engaging with the national news networks anymore. What is actually “new” about anything they say?
They — each and every one of them — spew banal noise over me and rob me of my presence of mind, capturing my attention so they can sell it to data freaks who want to use it to sell me dumb shit I don’t need or to inculcate me into a brand of thinking that long ago stopped serving me and any goal I have based on my newly emerging definition of success, the one that does not march blindly and ferociously anywhere, but is kind and patient but effective and smart, just the same.
While overhead meanwhile, hawks on the wing circle ever higher and higher.
It’s not like raptors don’t know how to hunt. They do, and with ferocity. But they also know when it’s time to catch a thermal and soar ever higher into the stillness —for fun! — without bothering a damned soul. Not even the songbirds.
I’d like to welcome all the new subscribers in the past couple of weeks. Thanks for your time and attention. Here’s an “in case you missed it” podcast I’ve pulled from the archives that I hope you will enjoy.
It’s a frank and funny conversation between myself, a white Southern-Northern girl raised to strive ever higher through the upper-middle class and like it, even if doing so doesn’t always reflect my values, and an urban black man raised to be what he already was — highly educated and upper-middle class — to the dismay and anger of the white men he encountered.
It’s actually a conversation about personal values more than it is about racism, but racism and hierarchy are what everything has to lead back to if we are to honestly examine how each of us, all Americans, come to value what we do.
No one gets attacked in this conversation. No one accuses anyone of being a racist. But both of us talk about how attacks and racism came to be realities that no one seems to be able to discuss without getting into a fight or shutting down.
My guest in this conversation is Dax-Devlon Ross, author of Letters to my White Male Friends. I hope you enjoy it!
One last thing before I head back into the quiet. If you like what you read and hear at docu-mental, would you let me know, please? I keep having all these new subscribers, so I am pretty sure people are enjoying what I offer, but then my comments section is only full of crickets.
I mean, I do like the silence and all, but I also like feedback. It’s helpful and encouraging to know what and how I am connecting with others.
You can leave a comment below by clicking on this button:
PS: I am taking a break today from the audiocast. Keeping the noise down. :)