When the house is quiet, I hear sounds that I don’t recognize and cannot place. There are clicks and whirrs from appliances, creaks from wood expanding and contracting, and various other sounds that bother me. It is disconcerting when the fridge sounds as though water is dripping, even though I know it is not dripping on the floor. Probably.
When it rains at night, I can’t immediately identify the sound or where it is coming from. I wake up and think I hear tapping, then I think there is a leak coming in, and finally I realize it is just rain on the window.
Occasionally I hear the sounds being made by city workers who are fixing the sewers in a nearby street. Mostly they are not bothersome, but sometimes I hear a loud metallic clang which startles me. I think it is nearer than it actually is, and maybe someone has closed our metal gate. But no, it’s just city work down the road.
All this got me thinking about the Buffalo Springfield song by Stephen Stills that goes, “Stop, children. What’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down.” The song is not about the kinds of sounds I’m hearing, though. It’s about war and protest.
Lately, the sounds of wars and protests are filling the television news. There are the sounds of people marching, people heckling, people chanting. There are the sounds of terrorists blowing up tourists, of forest fires, of traffic accidents.The TV news makes me fearful; I should stop watching it. It’s like the sounds in my house that I hear but can’t identify, or the sounds that I can identify but can’t do anything about.
The sounds of social unrest are important, and I care. Really, I do, but I can’t affect them. So my caring is like the alarm I feel at the occasional metal clang I hear from city workers. First I have to find out what caused it, then decide if I need to take any action. The only things I can do about the clanging cymbals on the news are to learn more, express my views occasionally, and vote. That all seems so inadequate, though.
I vote for the politicos who I think, or hope, are most likely to do some good, but it’s always a long shot. So, I’m left feeling concerned but powerless when I focus on those noises. Fortunately, there are other things to focus on.
Sometimes, the noises I hear are of the family upstairs when they come home, with doors opening and closing. I hear footsteps crossing the floor, and I can tell who it is from their pace. I hear music being played, and although I can’t hear the words I get the feel of the music from the bass notes and the rhythms. Sometimes I get jiggy with it. And there is laughter. Lots of laughter. Those are the sounds I like to hear and I don’t need to do anything about them. They are all good.
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