Letters

In all the noise, I have lost connection

Asked by: dal boi, London, UK

Answered by: Diana Khoi Nguyen

dal boi, London, UK

As a result of all of the saturated, congested airwaves and indiscernible noise everywhere, I have lost all connection. Is there a prescription that can help me restore a depth of sound and high fidelity transmission with other people?

dal boi


DKN:

Dear dal boi,

You’re right: it seems there is no space where one can escape human-related sounds. I thought about this essay and also this attempt to preserve one square foot of silence. 

Pauline Oliveras also comes to mind for her practice of deep listening as a way of being radically present in the world. And I would suggest it as a way to retune your senses to the sounds and connections that matter to you. In a way, I’m thinking about how folx learn to live with tinnitus (a condition for which there is no cure).  

Immediately the poet Arthur Sze comes to mind as someone intricately attuned to the myriad connections between things, people, places, across time. Sharing one of his poems here, and wishing you only the most nourishing of sound waves.

The Negative

A man hauling coal in the street is stilled forever.
Inside a temple, instead of light

a slow shutter lets the darkness in.
I see a rat turn a corner running from a man with a chair trying to smash it,

see people sleeping at midnight in a Wuhan street on bamboo beds,
a dead pig floating, bloated, on water.

I see a photograph of a son smiling who two years ago fell off a cliff
and his photograph is in each room of the apartment.

I meet a woman who had smallpox as a child, was abandoned by her mother
but who lived, now has two daughters, a son, a son-in-law;

they live in three rooms and watch a color television.
I see a man in blue work clothes whose father was a peasant

who joined the Communist party early but by the time of the Cultural Revolution
had risen in rank and become a target of the Red Guards.

I see a woman who tried to kill herself with an acupuncture needle
but instead hit a vital point and cured her chronic asthma.

A Chinese poet argues that the fundamental difference between East and West
is that in the East an individual does not believe himself

in control of his fate but yields to it.
As a negative reverses light and dark

these words are prose accounts of personal tragedy becoming metaphor,
an emulsion of silver salts sensitive to light,

laughter in the underground bomb shelter converted into a movie theater,
lovers in the Summer Palace park.

-Arthur Sze

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