“World-weary,” is how the writer Oriah Mountain Dreamer terms her mood these days, days in which she says that information overload makes her feel as though she knows both too much and too little at the same time. Yes. I get it.
In my case, I feel that I’ve seen too much and it’s cast a dark pall over my world.
Isn’t it funny how song lyrics intuitively come to mind as perfect reflections of what’s going on in our worlds? Such is the case with Simon and Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence, which speaks to me even 50 years later, although in the 21st century, it uncannily reflects current events.
Here’s what I mean.
“People talking without speaking”
Let’s face it. Our political system has always been corrupt to a lesser or greater degree. But the degree doesn’t matter, because corrupt is corrupt. And until there’s real campaign reform, all politicians are going to be owned by special interests. Let’s not kid ourselves. ALL politicians.
Or by their own egos, as in the case of Trump. His money (and he has far less of it than he wants people to believe) doesn’t insulate himself from the fact that he, like all politicians, does a whole lot of talking without speaking. Blah blah blah— pick your poison or your candidate , the words are all talk.
Our political system doesn’t support actually speaking because it’s hard to win if you tell the truth.
In fact, it’s impossible to win.
“People hearing without listening”
The people are hungry for Big Daddy or Mama to swoop in and fix it and they absolutely MUST have someone else to blame.
So there’s a whole lot of hearing going on but no critical thinking, therefore there’s no real listening. At all. The people are deaf to the facts, the truth, the real situation. They hear the promises, the claims, the hyperbole and hold on to them like a drowning swimmer holds on to a life preserver.
But ain’t no preserving of life in these promises. No.
The lack of critical thinking astounds me. There are no nuanced opinions these days. As a very smart young person I know said about a Trump supporter we both know, “typical, un-nuanced view.”
The broad brush is what most people understand. The nuances? Not so much.
One glaring example is how so many leap to demonize police officers for shooting suspects they believe are armed. Now, it’s absolutely true that there’s institutional racism all around us and it’s absolutely true that there are bad cops. But the nuanced view of the critical thinker accepts that not all cops are bad cops, not all shootings are racially motivated and the critical thinker also accepts that in the heat of a very dangerous moment, he or she might do the same thing. And that would be shoot to kill. Shoot or be shot, that’s a choice that broad-brush thinkers don’t want to really take in.
But then, that’s what’s become of us. A nation of sheep looking for easy answers, someone to blame and certainly people who do not want to think it through.
“And the people bowed and prayed/to the neon god they made”
On the road the other day I saw this: A full page, front page Life section spread on the K robbery.
Now, this woman and the entire family are a media creation. They have done nothing to merit their high visibility–they’re famous for being famous. And yet, with all of the injustice in the world, all of the lovely human interest stories about people who really do something to help the world, what commands the front page of the features section of a national newspaper is a story about a rich woman famous for having anal sex on video.
A story about her “robbery trauma”?
What about people who have real traumas?
Why do we even care about this person? Why do we let our children look up to her?
What has happened to our values?
I see the connection so clearly, the one between this story and the Trump candidacy and the lack of critical thinking–its absence chills me to the bone.
Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comments, but before you do:
Here’s a haunting cover of Sounds of Silencethat I think reflects my thoughts about it.
David Draiman, lead singer for Disturbed has the perfect voice for this version and it’s the way the song should be performed today. He’s live in Houston with rocker Myles Kennedy singing harmony. Remember, this is a heavy metal crowd. Lyrics below.
Draiman’s an incredible vocal performer and I’ve become a fan, even though heavy metal’s not my thing. Worth a listen is an even darker version, here.
Sounds of Silence/Simon & Garfunkel (1964)
Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence
In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence
“Fools”, said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
In the wells of silence
And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls”
And whispered in the sounds of silence