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facing noise and searching for answers

Quiet or silent moments in our house were always rare. Almost every day was inaugurated by the 6:30 am noise of taps and shower heads being powered up, closet doors opening & bedroom doors closing, feet thudding urgently as my dad rushed to fish a buniyan out of last night’s load of whites, the emphatic chirp of our security system being disabled for the day.

I spent many mornings stirring in bed, irritated by the ruckus but adamant in sticking to my schedule and my 8 am wake-up time (hello, that’s an entire REM cycle!!!). I thought I’d found an antidote –almost every night I stayed up long past everyone else’s bedtime just to have some quiet time, away from any noise. Within that window of time, it felt easier to think and to do what I wanted to do; the absence of noise left space for a greater sense of agency.

Mornings and nights continued to cycle through in this way for the better part of a year. Then one day, my parents left with my sister for a week of college visits. I was left to my own noises for a week, and I loved it. I woke up to the soft hum of sunrise and to birds giggling and just when the morning was getting going, before the first of my work calls for the day, I’d slip on a bebop playlist or a Schubert radio station. Evenings were quiet and more productive and sometimes lonely. The loneliness would be nice at first –enough of a shift of mood to be reflective and introspective in a new way. When I felt myself slipping into melancholy, usually around 10 pm, I’d call it a night. The new pattern was fantastic –a longstanding wish fulfilled without compromise.

The morning after my family’s return, I expected to once again feel bothered and cranky, but instead felt overwhelmingly comforted and snug. Noise became sound – I could wax poetic about the meaning of each sound, how I could recognize each person’s personality and mood in the heaviness of their footstep or the speed at which they opened a door or the duration of their shower. Ultimately, though, once those noises became sounds they also became singular in their meaning. They were an affirmation that the people I loved most were alive and safe, a reassurance that they were nearby.

I’ve been thinking a lot about all this as we face the noise that today’s political and public health crises have brought out. The impossibility of tuning it out, but the danger in trying to do so as well. The noise itself feels relentless and exhausting, so to try and listen to it seems like a repulsive task – but the second you start listening to noise it becomes sound, and once you start listening to sounds it becomes very clear that most sounds are unified in meaning and there are actually only two or three things that everyone is ultimately saying.

Also that there can be great comfort in the act of tuning in.


noise becomes sound once you start listening

  • these sounds are voices, and there are really only 2 or 3 different things that are ultimately being said

  • looking past anger, humor (memes), etc. by looking into it – what is being said? what truth is being laid bare?

if you don’t believe in equality, just say so and own it; don’t lay claim to morality or a belief in equality without being willing to stand by it and sacrifice your comfort

  • voting in the interests of the communal good is actually the least anyone can do if they really believe in equality

  • people who truly believe in equality understand that its strongest byproduct is personal/individual safety and prosperity

“I believe that man is about to learn that the most practical life is the moral life and that the moral life is the only road to survival. He is beginning to learn that he will either share part of his material wealth or lose all of it; that he will respect and learn to live with other political ideologies if he wants civilization to go on. This is the kind of argument that man’s actual experience equips him to understand and accept. This is the low road to morality. There is no other.” – Alinsky

politics is not personal, nor is it opinionated

  • politics operate to serve someone’s interest

  • our individual interests are also collective interests

“A major revolution to be won in the immediate future is the dissipation of man’s illusion that his own welfare can be separate from that of all others… Concern for our private, material well-being with disregard for the well-being of others is immoral… but worse, it is stupidity worthy of the lower animals… The fact is that it is not man’s ‘better nature’ but his self-interest that demands that he be his brother’s keeper.” – Alinsky

  • whose interests are currently prioritized?

– corporate interests

  • why should we not prioritize humanity? is the prioritization of humanity not simply the prioritization of our personal/individual rights and freedoms?

what does it actually mean to be free given that we must all coexist?

  • freedom is not having to worry about whether or not you can go to the doctor when you are sick

  • freedom is being able to have the time and ability to do what you love, whether you make it your profession or have the time to do it outside the hours that you work

  • freedom is being able to check in with yourself about how happy you are and to have the space and stability required to work towards your own happiness

  • freedom is being able to spend time with people you love –family and/or friends

  • freedom is being able to live free of fear/economic anxiety around whether or not you can afford to live or be protected/safe in case of an emergency

what are the most basic functions and rights we (feel we) deserve? do we not deserve these at any cost?

  • what systems are currently operating at any cost? what is the justification?

  • education → poorly paid teachers who have to work multiple jobs to survive

  • healthcare → rising insurance AND rising medical costs, all because insurance, pharma, etc. want higher rates of profit (money in their banks at the cost of human lives)

  • production of material goods → child labor, slavery and indentured servitude ranging from prison labor to modern factory towns

  • are you willing to fight, aggressively and uncompromisingly, for those rights? what are you willing to do/how far are you willing to go? what does that say about your sense of purpose in life and how that relates to your values?

  • for those of you who want to focus and provide for your family: what kind of world do you think your child will have to reckon with as a child, a teen, a young adult, and old adult? are you not willing to fight for that, to secure the safety of their world before bringing them into it?

  • what does love mean to you? what does it mean for your relationships and your future in the world we are facing now?

  • what kind of compromises are you willing to make and why?

is there anything good currently being done at any cost? what equality/human rights are being secured at any cost?

  • what are you willing to compromise for your rights?

  • who is willing to fight, aggressively and uncompromisingly, for those rights?

* access to healthcare

* education

* survival vis-a-vis climate change

* social security and retirement

short term vs long term

  • preservation and preparation

  • happiness in comfort

  • paying a little more in taxes doesn't smash economic hierarchy to pieces; we will still have rich people and poor people... if money and material wealth are priorities to you beyond the sake of survival and comfort, you will still have ample opportunity to have a lot of money – you can just rest easier knowing that it is not at the cost of human life AND you get to live with it in a smart, safe, healthy society

  • mitigating a larger sense of anxiety by mitigating uncertainty → why is retirement a question?


  • there is no “normal” to go back to

  • what does this even mean???

  • when in history have we ever “gone back”?

  • who does “going back” actually serve/benefit?

silence is not only complacence and not only complicity, but also an acceptance of one’s own inferiority → capitulation

  • why do you feel that you have the luxury of not speaking out? or do you not have the freedom to speak out?

  • what’s your threshold? how bad do things have to get (for you personally or more generally) for you to actually use your voice and speak up?

  • the most effective and immediate way we can galvanize change is by engaging with people compassionately and earnestly, by talking to each other and our families and friends

what questions, doubts, concerns, reservations, or fears do you have? in general and/or with regards to the election and/or everything that’s happening now? do you have any thoughts or reactions, agreements or disagreements, re the above? please reach out to me as i would love to hear what they are and what you’re thinking and just generally how you are and what you are feeling in these abnormal but very real times!!!!!

above all, i hope you are able to find at least a little bit of happiness among all this in your daily lives. if that’s something you’re struggling with, call me beep me and i will do whatever i can to help.

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