Saturday, July 03, 2010

Car Alarms and Surf

This morning, as I'm typing this, someone's car alarm is sounding down the street, which might be thought of as quite aggravating. However, it could also be thought of as simply some morning sounds -- even some interesting morning sounds. It’s strange, when I think about it, that I’m so accustomed to judging sounds: bad, good, annoying, pleasing, happy, sad. When I’m sitting at the shore listening to the sounds of the surf, I automatically categorize them as pleasant sounds, but I instinctively (and almost unconsciously) place the sounds of a car alarm in the “annoying” category. You might call me old Judge Salsich, the distributor of verdicts about the relative quality of sounds. But what if I took off my judicial robes? What if I simply accepted each sound as just what it is – a phenomenon in a universe of phenomena? Would it be possible, when listening to the car alarm, to say, “That’s a very interesting sound – just as interesting as the sound of the surf”? An odd but cheerful picture comes to mind: I’m standing on the sidewalk, looking down the street at the car whose alarm is sounding, and I’m smiling contentedly. Someone says, “Why are you smiling, Ham?” and I reply, “Oh, I just find those alarm sounds quite fascinating.” It could happen, but only if I give up judging sounds and just accept them for what they are – attention-grabbing gifts given by the universe.

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