Surprised by Sudden Sounds

Hello, what?

A firsthand account of a hearing challenge, one told in the first person. That’s what. Hello in there, hello.

Simone: I know you’re right, Pee-wee, but…

Pee-wee: But what? Everyone I know has a big “But…? C’mon, Simone, let’s talk about *your* big “But”.

Before opting for a $400 pair of hearing aids, I asked some friends and relatives if they were happy with a pair of ear inserts, ones that had cost twice as much as the shiny new automobile I purchased in 1973 (an AMC Gremlin if you must know). Each wearer had a big but that for one reason or ‘tother, so I just kept on mishearing words — mis-heards that made me the butt of many an “Are you deaf?” joke. My sister-in-law works with the elderly, she recognized the dynamic, remarking that many who mishear are falsely diagnosed as suffering from “dementia”.fork.and.knife

Oliver Sacks, the sorely missed independent thinker,  wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times that captures his personal experience with hearing loss: “Mishearings.” A timely take on the mind’s capacity for assigning meaning to spoken language.

And yet there is often a sort of style or wit — a “dash ”— in these instantaneous inventions; they reflect, to some extent, one’s own interests and experiences, and I rather enjoy them. Only in the realm of mishearing — at least, my mishearings — can a biography of cancer become a biography of Cantor (one of my favorite mathematicians), tarot cards turn into pteropods, a grocery bag into a poetry bag, all-or-noneness into oral numbness, a porch into a Porsche, and a mere mention of Christmas Eve a command to “Kiss my feet!”

 

Hearing loss had removed many unfortunate sounds: the song of birds, the snores of Loki the Cat, the sussurance of the familiar, the soothing and the calming. However, at this very moment I am listening to the sharp, measured and deliberate crunches Loki is making — less than a meter away.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Bird Sounds on DirtNKids 🙂

 

I am able to attend Arabic language classes at the local masjid once again, to actually understand the critical meanings lost to mishearings. It’s wonderful to join in with a measure of confidence that was quite impossible before 🙂

Now here is an unexpected but welcome circumstance: turning the devices off stills the din, the conical insert even acts as an earplug of sorts.

Now I jump into a wild cacophony of sound with a grateful soul. According to the instruction manual, it’s a gradual process that takes a bit of patience. I’ve only worn them for a week now, so my mind is still refreshing the inventory of sounds unheard for many years: floorboards squeak, a wall clock clicks with each passing second (I’ve timed it!) and my feet make a sweeping sound on a carpet.

Thanks for reading.

 

Nothing, or a Useful Pot?

Hariod Brawn has asked me to write my take on “nothing happening” and “nothingness”. So it is my every privilege to respond with something on nothing. For all and each, with sheer gratitude for simply being in the company of my readers.

Hello in there. Hello.

hello-in-there

Critics of composer John Cage are legion. His best known work 4′ 33″ is a quite quiet piece. Audiences chime in with coughs, traffic noise, sound absent upon the stage. Movements end with a drop of the piano-key lid, they begin upon opening the lid.

 

The most common objection to 4′ 33″:

“Why, anyone can do that.”

Cage’s reply:

“No one had before I did.”

Nothing doing, or doing nothing.

cage-against-the-machine

 

You may know of the Zen koan on the cup full and the cup empty. Some good nothing there.

That reminds me of something. Reading literature in original language is a way to avoid the lie of translation. All translations are variations on untruth. Poetry is highly susceptible to mistranslation. Reading Rilke in the original German is worth the effort.

Languages are subtle windows into culture. Deliberate mistranslation is a bludgeoning tool for propagandists.

Perhaps I digress.

“Yes.”

Oh well.

“Death to America” is a deliberate mistranslation from Farsi, inexcusable ignorance of ancient and marvelous Persian culture. The proper translation is “Down with America,” but the word “death” suggests “jihad” and feeds Islamophobia. Bomb ’em. 

Now, back to nothing.

Well, almost.

Die Unendliche Geschichte by Michael Ende quite accurately tells the universal tale of a nihilist threat: das Nicht (The Nothing). This tale is nothing like that empty cup or the useful pot. Milne wrote about a wonderful birthday present that Piglet gifted Eeyore: “The Useful Pot.”

useful-pot

Emptiness can be wonderful. It can be horrible. Another fantasy by Ende: Momo. A tale of time thieves who deviously steal hours at a time from unsuspecting, innocent hardworking people.  Give us the time of your life and we will invest it for you. Momo is a homeless waif who lends her time freely and with gratitude. A most rare quality.

michael-ende-momo-copy1

I proclaim that we are all existential, and by “all” I mean all sentient beings. We all exist, but some of us are exploited. To the victors go the history books — sometimes those victors also build expedient death camps for tasty or despised fellow sentients. Truth is not something generated by majority rule.

Do I again digress?

“Yes.”

Oh Well.

Thanks for reading.