Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Sound Inside

For the hundreds of millions now in lockdown or about to be what that experience will be like will be exactly the same number who are/were in lockdown. In other words: Different like everyone else.

The article below discusses how varying individuals across the globe are finding this distancing working out for them and the time it has enabled them to connect to their world beyond their door but also within their walls.

If there is one thing I have learned that we are a culture that is very afraid to be alone. It varies with age, gender, culture, religion and and race.  We have seen many faces of color the most affected by this virus and largely due to very condensed living spaces. When you have multi generational families living in small urban and dense environments you have a breeding ground of disease. Everyone is coming in and out each with their own contacts and in turn they touch each surface, meals are shared, facilities are limited for hygiene and the constant ebb and flow of those on varying schedules makes it challenging at best to establish a routine that in turn facilitates a spread of a virus.

Poverty is of course one aspect and the other is wealth.  Successful wealthy people travel, they come into contact with a multitude of associates, they are social and have many others who serve their needs and accommodate their schedules. They are often invisible and in turn come into close contact with the families and their belongings/lodgings and possessions.  They are contact surfaces and in turn they are also responsible for their households including children who go to parks, schools and other places where they in turn contact numerous individuals and surfaces that are all transmission for disease.

In other words we all come into contact with viruses and disease every day.  It is called being human, its what we do.  Unless you are a Hermit or are in some type of religious group or cult that socially isolates and well physically does as well you are not going to avoid any of this in some form or another. It could have been the cold you had earlier last year or the flu or some other ailment that knocked you out for a few days. Was it Covid? Does it matter if you are up and around and healthy now?  Were any of your friends, family, business associates knocked out by it shortly after or before you encountered them?  How many times do you inquire about someone's health in more than a general "How are you?" manner?   You don't and even if you you may listen but not hear them as few want to discuss their personal ailments.   Funny how we will disclose anything and everything on social media but during a pandemic we are as silent as a church mouse.

I grew up an only child so I was left to my own amusement most as I don't even recall children in my neighborhood other than the poor family behind my home who had children of special needs and varying ailments that set my family off as I recall ringworm once that to my Mother was equivalent of Covid.  So I was a loner early on and paranoid of disease apparently as I am actually a health freak about that and had a Father who could teach the CDC cleaning protocol.  So being lonely was not something I needed to fix, I could go to the local drug store and sit at the counter and chat with the lady who worked there and have a Coke.  I went to the Library all the time and the Librarians knew me well as did most of our local vendors.  The nearby Francine Seders gallery was one of my favorite places to spend time, I thought for the longest time it was a Museum.  And of course I walked Green Lake all the time and took joy in just that.

I noticed this social distancing more as a teenager and then sometime during my teen years I had enough.  I went to College and had the normal boyfriends, roommates and the like and hated every minute of it.  Went back home, transferred and lived at home until age 30.  Then I had to grow up and find a life.  And attempts at conventional life was tried and ultimately rejected. I sampled some of it in Nashville and again proven that people are assholes regardless of age, race, gender, of belief or politics. What those do is make it easier to label and in turn disregard or regard with whatever you feel is important to you.

We largely identify ourselves through our work or professional identity.  It is why we have decided to add to the list of Heroes, Doctors, Grocery Clerks, Amazon workers, Bus Drivers to the list of Front Liners or First responders in the hierarchy of import.  Funny those are often the lowest paid on the rung of the ladder of import, well other than Doctors and frankly that is bullshit, but we revere Athletes, Celebrities and CEO's because why. They make money.  We all want to be rich and we cannot and the rich have made sure of that but that I have written about extensively. What we have seen during this pandemic the rejection of celebrity and their strange Instagrams and other futile attempts to prove they are in this together with us from their mansions and homes that are still be attended to by the invisible work force to mind their homes, their children and their professional finances.   They will be fine.  I did see hysteria over the NFL draft but then again football people are not my people so guess what. I.don't.give.a.flying.fuck.

I keep hearing about these random acts of kindness and wonder where they are?  I have neither seen nor experienced them. I recall the Yoga Teacher in March saying, "I am your friend, I care" after demeaning me for talking about the VIRUS..well I was ahead of that curve...pun intended. Has she ever reached out to email or call me? No but they have on demand Yoga and since I paid already for a membership it's perfect contactless delivery.  In my building I watched the panic hoarding and hysteria and then that curve leveled off and guess what? It's back as I predicted hysteria by May 31 and its coming. Staff have quit which in this job market is a bad idea and unless he plans on going to work at an Amazon warehouse.   I am not sure what he is qualified for and he quit over Covid fear so that is the last place I would work. And because he quit no he does not get unemployment so there you go another millennial idiot.

As for that unemployment benefit that extends extra funds, that ends in July and that is when the lift on the lockdown will occur and that is not a coincidence as there are none.  I actually read the Executive Orders of the idiot Governor of NJ and in there was the date June 1.  So when he came out with his plan which was well no plan so okay then I already knew that there is no Memorial Day BBQ on the schedule.  And as the South opens up with its immense poverty and lack of health care for the poor watch Wave 2 hit there and here in the North with our liberal smugness it will be "I told you so."  So good luck there Georgia! But if not, thanks for being the lab rat and seeing if it works, we are not as stupid as you, so you first! Either/Or Neither/Nor we get it we really do.

And as I read all about the fears, the frustrations and the anger about having to live in social isolation and in turn try to find ways to feed the head, the heart and the stomach as well food shortages and all (again not happening we have a logistics issue that is the problem) we are not thriving or even demonstrating rational behavior.  And this is where we are, nowhere.  And we are not going anywhere anytime soon.

Isaiah 26:20
Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut your doors behind you. Hide yourselves a little while until the wrath has passed.

What does a pandemic sound like? For many of us at home, it’s a heartbreaking silence.

The Washington Post
By Robin Givhan
April 28, 2020

In India, the incessant beep-beep of cars has disappeared. In New York, Harlem’s heart has stopped beating. In the suburbs of Detroit, the chatter of neighbors is muffled. In Toronto, the trains no longer whistle, and in Marseille, every day sounds like a holiday. All around the world, the silence rolls in and out like fog. It hangs in the air — there but not there. Impenetrable and fragile, weightless and smothering.

It’s periodically disrupted — by the shriek of an ambulance siren, the rattle of a construction truck or the evening applause for first responders. For those lucky enough to work from their home, FaceTime and Zoom keep the afternoon buzzing with a new familiarity. But eventually, the silence comes.

We are deep in the horror and kicking our way to the surface. What does a pandemic sound like? Emptiness.

In March, Faith Heyison was in the thick of her professional duties — working with fashion designers behind the scenes in their showrooms and on their runway productions. Heyison was in her glory: the chaotic, exhausting whirl of creativity on a global scale. Her work regularly takes her to New York and Paris, and by the time she returns to Monsempron-Libos, the small town in southwestern France where she lives, she usually welcomes the peace and quiet that greet her.

But now the silence is not so much a well-earned gift as a voracious monster that has snuffed out the reassuring rumble and roar of daily life.

The Bible says, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” But sometimes in this age of covid-19, it seems that the sweet cacophony in our dreams is what soothes us, not the silence of our waking hours.

“I live alone. I am not permitted to visit neighbors or friends. I am not permitted to be somewhere other than my primary residence. I cannot take one of the few available trains to a coastal town. Everything would be closed anyway, including hotels. I cannot escape by means of an airplane to another country,” Heyison says in an email. “Even if I could, all I would find would be more silence.”

“Sleep is actually a welcome respite because in my dreams, it’s noisy,” she says. “I talk to people I know. I talk to people I never met. I am in places I know. I am in places I have never been. Sleep is the easy part. It’s waking up that is harder.”

Just past midnight, as Saturday blurs into Sunday, a walk sign on H Street NE in the nation’s capital glows white but there are no footfalls. The only sound on the empty sidewalk is the electronic bloop, bloop, bloop of the traffic signal counting down the seconds before . . . no one moves and the hush only deepens. No cars rumble through the intersection. The city’s inglorious streetcar, on its newly shortened schedule, stopped running hours ago and so there’s no impudent clanging of its horn, no squeal of its metal wheels on its track.

The late-night urban soundscape has become little more than digital chirps and the occasional guttural outburst from the lost soul wrapped in a vagabond’s blanket.

By Sunday’s light, H Street is free of the usual detritus that comes from the crowds of bar-hoppers, late-night diners and music lovers. Silence is litter-free.

Some people find the quiet calming. They feel closer to God. They give in to the stillness and consider their destiny. They have a silver-lining attitude: The air is cleaner; crimes rates have dropped; school shootings ceased in the United States. If you tilt your head and squint, the quieting of the world can be seen as a gift.

But when we, the agitated, try to breathe deeply and locate our spiritual center, it’s elusive.

“I keep thinking, ‘This is great, I’ll just sit here and simply be.’ But then my mind freaks out and it starts racing and then I’m like ‘Ahh, must make some noise,’” says Sara Ngwenya, who lives in Nottingham, England. “There’s too much reality that’s hidden in those pockets of silence, and I’m not sure I can handle it at the moment.”

The silence isn’t a respite; it’s relentless. It’s no longer the absence of sound; it is the sound.

“I’m kind of an introvert; I need to retreat,” says LaTasha Simmons, a nail technician who worked in Brooklyn — back when there was noise — and lives on Long Island. “This is forced silence instead of silence that you’re creating for yourself.” Instead of looking to it as a tonic to recharge from a hectic day, there’s no hurly-burly from which to withdraw. We don’t wind down because we never wound up.

What we lose when a great American city has no nightlife

What day is it? Sound is an aural calendar: the whoosh of weekday rush-hour traffic, the hoots of the Friday night bar brigade, the slam of shared bicycles into their electronic docks on a Saturday afternoon full of errands.

“Since the lockdown began, every day feels like a Sunday. You wake up, and you hear . . . nothing,” says Nicolas Icard, a 23-year-old communications student in isolation with his parents in Marseille, France. “I think people are divided between the calm that they might be experiencing in their lives and the fear of what will happen next.”

Instead of silence being part of the natural rhythm of life, life has flatlined. And the thought of resuscitating our beloved with a jolt is terrifying. In Florida and Georgia, the chattering crowds on beaches, the buzz of barbershop clippers, the zap-zap of tattoo needles aren’t noises of life; they’re a tolling of the bells.

The silence really can be deafening. When a normally high-volume city is abruptly put on mute, our brain is hypersensitive to the shift. What we've experienced is akin to leaving a loud concert and stepping into the hush of the night. The silence registers intensely. It's almost suffocating.

“It definitely leaves you alone in your head,” Simmons says. And for many of us, our head is filled with what-ifs and worst-case scenarios. “I need a little bit of noise to drown out the silence.”

The quiet shouldn’t be confused with loneliness, which is a mental state. And it’s not synonymous with solitude, although there are points of overlap, like in a Venn diagram, says Thuy-vy Nguyen, an assistant professor at Durham University who researches solitude and resiliency.

Solitude — or alone time — can be filled with moments of silence, but it can also be rich with music. And anyone who’s ever had an argument with a roommate knows it’s possible to have silence — or to get the silent treatment — when solitude would be much preferred.

Still, one wonders whether the discomfort with silence is exacerbated by solitude. Or can silence cause loneliness? Perhaps the brewing uneasiness is just the desire to hear someone say: You are loved. You are valued.

Nguyen began researching solitude long before the pandemic. She was especially focused on how older people respond to it. She and her colleagues were hampered by the amount of enforced alone time a subject could ethically be asked to endure. The pandemic has removed that hurdle.

Nguyen has learned that as long as subjects know that they have value to someone beyond their four walls, even if they didn’t have the ability to connect with that person, they could stave off loneliness.

Silence can be remedied with the click of a remote control. Throw open the home office doors and let in the whirling-dervish of a toddler. But this silence is unlike any other. It can’t be filled by bingeing on television or audiobooks. It requires the complicated, sweeping, unmatched symphony of life.

“I live in the suburbs, but there’s always things going on. And now, if you go outside, you’re barely seeing any cars. You see people walking and they all cross the street to move away from you. No one is speaking,” say Andi Rehm, a fashion stylist at Tender boutique in Birmingham, Mich.

The silence isn’t merely the absence of noise. It’s the fear of interaction. It’s judgment, longing and paranoia. It’s our distressed human condition amplified. When the sounds of nature — the birds chirping, the rustling leaves — become the soundtrack of a formerly vibrant, agitating city, at first you’re lulled into calm, says Karishma Sehgal, who blogs about sustainability and upcycling, from her home in Pune, in western India. Then you remember that life has turned inside out.

“Spring is in full gear, but there aren’t human sounds to chime in,” says Leah Rossi, a Toronto-based fashion stylist.

The volume of the natural world has been cranked up. Maybe it’s a greater power — the good Lord, Mother Nature, karma, the Fates — giving notice that humans are not in control of their environment; they must work in concert with it.
A woman walks outside of Kingman Park in Washington.
A woman walks outside of Kingman Park in Washington. (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/for The Washington Post)

We troop through the streets on our essential errands. The sun might be shining and the sky may be blue but it sounds like a storm is coming. We hear the same heaviness in the air that precedes a tornado. We wait and watch for a thunderous funnel cloud that for most of us — blessedly healthy at home and without loved ones in hospitals — never comes.

“I took a walk this very morning,” says Daniel Lanzilotta, an artist in Harlem. The silence “is thick. It’s a sadness. I started crying under my mask.

“I went back home.”

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