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Sound Cancellation Magic and Mystery

Close your eyes and what do you see?

Pin your nose and what do you smell?

Shut your mouth and what do you taste?

Cover your skin and what do you feel?

Hold your ears and… you still hear what you heard before, just a bit quieter. I can’t shut out sound like I can dim sights, smells, tastes and touches. It just keeps coming despite my best efforts. Which reminds me of the white noise I used to create in my dorm room by turning the dial on my stereo so it was between stations. (Youngsters, see radio here, which actually makes for some fascinating physics reading!)

Oh, how quiet the dorm seems now compared to the world that is hammering at my door and pounding on my ear drums. And it doesn’t come just with volume but with velocity. It has the power to take me down. Literally, to run me out. This is complete irony to me, someone who has to listen so carefully to remember what I hear. I have to turn the dial just so and focus all my attention just there so I can hear, process and remember what you say.

And this tuning in leaves me completely at the mercy of the noise. I’ve turned up the gain, and everything else is louder, too. The shouting, the loud, the angry, the oblivious, the crying, and those who really need someone to listen. By tuning everything out, I don’t hear. I don’t hear them. I don’t hear You. How can I tamp down the background so I can listen carefully, completely? So when the moment for listening comes I will give it my full attention.

photoSuddenly, in have walked sound cancellation head phones. (My husband bought me these, which is a fascinating observation on our marriage – but here, it’s working :)) So, how do those headphones DO that? They cancel the sounds around you so you can hear just what you want to. If you don’t pipe in any music, there are still sounds, but these aren’t distracting. It’s as if the headphones tell your ears, “Don’t pay any attention to that.”

These headphones really are quite amazing. Canceling offending noises without quashing them. They don’t shout down the opponent; they meet his onslaught with an equal and opposite force. Poof. Gone. No muss, no fuss. How magnificent! How mighty. How peaceful. What’s left is selected silence, dialed in. Just like in the dorm room.

Selective silence is what I need. Imagine if I could tune out the world’s noise and focus only on that still small voice. Not exclusively, not forever, not in an offensive or off-putting, superior or segregating, critical or judgmental way. The Lord knows this would, perhaps will, tempt me to aim and fire my Silence!! button at the world according to Wendy.

But what if I could learn to hit the sound cancellation button just as needed? When I need to hear only one sound and one voice. It’s good to know the Tech is available.


This post is dedicated to three women who are listening for medical news right now and I am privileged to hold them up in my listening.

What Harvest Would the Silence Bring?

27 years in a cell. A man found guilty, given time to consider, in silence. His circumstances insisted he “search realistically and regularly the processes of (his) own mind and feelings.”

What if we were sentenced to hard labor on the rock pile of life? With only ourselves and our fellow laborers for company. What then?

Would we find things of the spirit? Things gone missing or perhaps just dust-covered, having been set aside. Maybe they’ve been shelved or filed having been “sufficiently accomplished” thus not warranting further attention. Let’s press on to important matters, our soul seems to say.

But that voice…do I know it? Is it MY soul speaking?

One Light

One Light

What if we took the earphones out and let our own thoughts rattle through our heads as we went running, lifting, riding, driving? What harvest would the silence bring? Are we afraid to have our own thoughts for company?

Is it better to pay them no mind? Drown them out in the noise?

Keeping silent is very, very hard labor. Almost makes 27 years on the rock pile look easy, even a gift.

Can you hear me now?

noise signWhen someone has noise in their ears, you have to touch them to get their attention.

A woman is sitting on the two-seater sofa at Starbucks. We, a group of three with coffees in hand, prepare to sit down. There are two free seats, plus the seat on the sofa next to the woman. She does not see us. She does not hear us. She has ear buds firmly affixed in both ears. Her laptop is perched on the arm of the sofa which faces the window. Her books and several wads of paper (yes, someone who uses actual paper!) cover the “vacant” seat. She looks intently at her screen. She has a pony tail. Guessing, mid-twenties.

We speak to her pleasantly, “Excuse me, can you…?” No response.

A bit louder, “Excuse me, can you…?” No response.

We have now gotten the attention of the women sitting catty-corner. They look at me and smile. Ah, the younger generation, they seem to say.

I take two steps over to the young woman, so engaged. She does not notice. I touch her on the arm and she turns. “Excuse me, but can we …?”

She is startled. Looks at her pile of refuse and immediately begins to gather herself. Her papers. Her books. Her bag. Then her laptop and cord. She up and moves to a small table by the window. Where she can plug in again.

We hadn’t meant to dismiss her. Just share a seat with her.


I am running along the sidewalk. It is sunny and warm. It is noontime and many people are out. Several are walking toward me. Each alone. Engaged in their own conversation. Attached to the cord which extends from their ears. My greetings go unacknowledged.

I approach a man who has stopped, facing away from me. His feet are spread. His head bowed. His eyes riveted by something on the screen he holds in his hand. I must divert completely off the path to avoid a collision. He doesn’t notice.


The world, this world, our world, will not know we are near unless we touch them. Their eyes and ears are engaged. Their taste and smell are suspended. Touch is the only way to reach them. To reach out to them. To move them.

We must touch each other to gain access. To acknowledge each other. Not as an intrusion but as an introduction. We want to know you. To greet you. To share space with you.

Our world is a very noisy place. If we listened to the silence, what would it say? If we listened to each other, what would we hear? Touch me, with your story and your life.

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