Sounds. Echoes of childhood. A home telephone number drilled so often into our heads by anxious mothers that we can chant them in our sleep fifty years later. Or a dirty limerick from grade school that we can recall with little effort. A train rattling through at night or a foghorn. A thunderclap that scared us when we were ten.
Some of the strongest memories that stay with us are those associated with sound. Teenagers have hundreds of songs at the tip of their ears. Musicians have many more. Classical performers learn long concertos by heart. And these sounds stay with us.
Or, we could run from them, shut them out: painful screams at accidents, the sound of gunfire or an incoming shell, or the screech of brakes prior to a collision. And then there’s our inner voice warning us not to cross that line or reminding us to be nice.
We need to learn to listen to these inner voices; they can well serve as guides and might also help us become more whole.
Here’s one idea. Let’s leave the painful or ugly ones alone. Don’t waste time and energy trying to dig them out – put them aside for the moment. But no need to throw them away; after all, they are part of us – don’t cut off your arm at the elbow because of a hangnail on the little finger. We can come back to them when we’re ready.
It’s more a matter of accentuating the positive.
I’m not very musical, not quite tone-deaf, but Carnegie Hall was not in my future no matter how hard or long I may have practiced. The only way I’d get there was by buying a ticket. (And I did several times.) As a kid, I had a wonderful thought. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to associate a piece of music (for me this would have been classical) with any sound or color or mood? If a plate fell and broke, dah-dum, or rolled on the floor – da, da, da-dum, no problem: Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (remember, I said I wasn’t musically talented). If it was cloudy and I wanted a sunny day, perhaps some blues: You know the sun’s going to shine in my front door someday. I can still hear Big Bill Broonzy singing this now. But thanks to Wikipedia I see that it was written by Richard M. Jones, a jazz pianist, in the early 20s. In any case, when I feel down and blue, there are times when I remember these blues and let Big Bill remind me that the sun will shine on me someday.
You can all pick whatever genre of music you like. Bottom line – sounds can be uplifting. Even a baby crying at 3 AM – just think of a new life with new possibilities. And don’t dwell on the smells of the dirty diaper – that was last week’s essay. Rehearse the happy, positive sounds in your head. You don’t need earphones or to have the volume turned all the way up. A soft humming also works.
There are always memories associated with happy gatherings. Hear again one of the greetings. Go fishing as a kid? What about the splash of the bait & bobber or lure in the water? And if you had a bike, perhaps you or a friend attached a playing card with a clothespin and you went chattering around the block?
But now that we are grown up we can begin to learn to listen to others, to hear sounds that are not our own, and to give credence to their value. Others have their own centers and their own unique perspectives on life. I’d guess that many of us would jump at the opportunity to climb aboard the Starship Enterprise and explore other galaxies. Another’s viewpoint is like another universe. And we needn’t go so far. All we need to do is learn to listen – with an open heart and an open mind.
And let’s not forget to listen to the voice that reminded us to say: “Thank you” and “Please.”
Ken was a Professor of Mathematics, a ceramicist, a welder, and an IBMer until downsized in 2000. He taught yoga until COVID-19 decided otherwise. He continues writing, living with his wife and beagle in Shorewood, Wisconsin. He enjoys chamber music and mysteries. He’s a homebrewer and runs whitewater rivers. Ken is a writer and his literary works can be found at https://www.kmkbooks.com/
He welcomes feedback on his articles and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.