Hello darkness, my old friend

October 6, 2016

Burning Man 2016. Photo credit: Scott Swanson

“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. 

critical-thinkingNow, 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 Silence that 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
Still remains
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
And echoed
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

Oh, and here’s a link to Oriah’s piece. I’m a fan and I hope you will be, too, if you aren’t already.


























41 comments on “Hello darkness, my old friend
  1. This is one of your best posts. Excellent. And the Draiman song is powerful.

  2. Provocative piece and I can disagree with nothing. (Highly unusual for me!) We don’t want to think. It was what I found to be the most interesting thing about the Pence/Kaine debate. When Kaine spoke the obvious about implicit bias in police and in other institutions (which only a moron would deny), Pence immediately dismissed it without a backward glance. If we can’t even admit the existence of our societal problems, how could be possibly solve them?

  3. Lois Hoffman says:

    You read my mind. Great post.

  4. Grammy says:

    Robbery trauma, nah, just wanting attention, more publicity.

  5. Great post. This: “Our political system doesn’t support actually speaking because it’s hard to win if you tell the truth.” I don’t agree with everything you write, but isn’t that a good sign? A critical thinking sign? 🙂 And thanks for the lovely cover.

  6. Robin herman says:

    One might call the song prescient but alas it’s timeless.
    As a teen I played it over and over til I knew every word and the harmony too. Still do! Up for a duet?

  7. Carolann says:

    I love Disturbeds cover all good points carol I hear you loud and clear on all of it!

  8. Lori says:

    Thank you for sharing this version of the song! It’s beautiful and haunting.

  9. Joan Stommen says:

    Just wow, Carol! What great insight and connections you’ve made…wonderfully written as usual! Such a powerful piece…interpreting the lyrics in today’s world. But I also love that you’ve done this…I use lyrics from different songs in emailing my guy friend…weird flirtation…but great fun with the oldies!
    This is one of your best ousts ever, my friend! Hope the writers and singers see it!

  10. Amber Myers says:

    This is a great post.

    That Kim Kardashian thing has me rolling my eyes a bit. I’m sorry it happened to her, but I think it’s been overblown.

  11. Barbara says:

    Such a great post, Carol. It really speaks to so much of our day to day world right now. And, I just read an article today that suggested the whole Kardashian heist was a sham. I think they felt drumpf was taking too much attention away from them.

  12. Anna palmer says:

    These lyrics are perfect for the post. Trump and his broad bush…I mean brush are the worst examples of what has been a long time coming. Reductionism, 140
    Character conversation and fear and sound bytes have left the media and entered every day life. Neon god indeed.

  13. Laura says:

    Very true. Such is the way of the world.

  14. Barry Julius says:

    Love simon and garfinkel!!!

  15. Crystal gard says:

    Great post. It blows my mind too that with all the major traumas that are happening around the world that something like this made a front page. What is this world coming too?

  16. Jennifer says:

    I love the version that is just David Draiman singing. The rawness of his voice really hits a nerve for me and drives home the lyrics. “And in the naked light I saw, ten thousand people, maybe more. People talking without speaking. People hearing without listenin…”

  17. Hmmm I totally understand where you are coming from but to be honest, I wouldn’t be too hard on Kim K. No, I don’t watch their show or follow them on social media etc. But we are not in her position. I know she has become famous for her sex tape but really?? She was not the one who sent it out to the world and it was with her partner at that time. Also, she has been in the celebrity industry even way before as Paris Hilton’s secretary as well as Brandy the singer’s PR. Anyway, the way I see it, she made the best out of her situation. Nothing wrong with that 🙂

  18. Daniel says:

    The problem is people hate it but love to click on click bait. Controversial titles. embellished stories and drama are what drive ratings. The truth isn’t that interesting to most.

  19. Ileana says:

    I do not agree with many of these things, but it was a very interesting article to read!

  20. Thoughtful post. As a social scientist, I was attracted to the words, “critical thinking.” I couldn’t agree with you more. Would you be interested in letting me post this (or parts of it) on my site for social studies educators?” http://valleysocialstudies.com/our-latest-news/ the music is arresting. I can’t switch off the page until it finishes. 🙂

  21. DT says:

    Loved reading this.. Great piece.
    Agree completely about the Kardashians thing!! Never understood for a second what the hype is about.
    — DT | Here I Scribble

  22. Elizabeth O. says:

    I hate talking about politics because it will only lead me to judging people and I really am trying to avoid that at all costs, it’s toxic. But sad to say, it’s becoming a real issue with all that’s happening in the world and in our country. I love that rendition, it’s perfect for the kids today!

  23. victoria says:

    This is absolutely an interesting post, I’m so glad that you share this

  24. You nailed it. It truly is all about the lack of critical thinking. I’m Canadian and am watching the US elections with total perplexity. As are so many of my friends. As for the KK robbery saga? Pfffffft. I’m sure the good folks of Florida aren’t giving it much thought, right now. Nor should the rest of us.

  25. Deep nuanced thinking and careful listening would indeed serve us all well on every single subject I can think of.

    Loved the Draiman/Kennedy version of Sounds of Silence.

  26. ohmummymia says:

    I didn;t know this version but is really good

  27. haleybop says:

    Thank you for posting this. This is one my favorite songs, and I think everyone should listen to it and understand. We’re in a difficult point right now, and we need to step up and make good choices if we don’t want our culture to fall apart.

  28. Glenda says:

    Great post! I can’t even start expressing what I think about what’s going on with politics these days! It’s just simply insane and corrupted! Also I feel bad about what happened to Kim but she needs to stop showing off her expensive jewelry, clothing and accessories to the world because she will attract criminals. But the media definitely needs to focus on other important issues around the world.

  29. Independent thinking is no longer “in vogue.” People have become “followers” and whether social media is to be “blamed” for that or is this a case of life imitating art, I really don’t know. It is a sad day, however, when Kim Kardashians plight far surpasses the hunger and pain people were in on that same day and that the millions in jewelry she was flaunting could have relieved for so many for the rest of their lives. When the top contender for “Leader of The Free World,” is Donald Trump- darkness will become all our friends. Very insightful post Carol.

  30. Very thoughtful and well written piece. Lovely song, and oh so true.

  31. You bring up valid points. I simply choose to ignore a lot of what the media decides to focus on. It’s especially easy when you no longer have cable!

  32. You make some great points – I couldn’t agree more. We have become sheep – but I’ve become a fact checker somehow. I too played this song on the piano for years – I was the accompanist for the chorus in high school, at a time when this was one of the big things (as was Sound of Music, Oliver and To Dream the Impossible Dream) – I’m going to dig it out! again, couldn’t agree more

  33. I sometimes feel I am the only person in the world that thinks critically enough to know that no matter who becomes president, nothing will change drastically. If one wins it will be the same old and if the other wins change will be very, very slow if at all.
    The media wants us divided, wants the election to be contentious and they create blaring headlines to get
    us watching and listening and we are buying it.
    This has always been one of myour favorite songs. I love this version, thank you for sharing.

  34. Rosemond says:

    Critical thinking has left the building in our Trumpified, Kardashian’d world. This version of the song seems to strike the right tone with all the insanity going on in our media hyped world today.

  35. Debbie Goode says:

    You just have to learn to live your beautiful life within the ‘silence’. Push beyond the ugliness and find the beauty and the peace. IT is out there….I see it everyday in all the small little thing that the loving and caring people of this earth do for one another. There is another line in a song that comes to mind, ‘teach your children well’ for they are the ones that can and will ‘change the world’ There is always HOPE

  36. Amy Putkonen says:

    My daughter, who is 15, was telling me yesterday about the plight of some men who are raped by women. I scoffed, and was surprisingly angered by her attention to this idea. Of all the things to spend our energy fighting against, why would we pick “men who get raped by women”? There are literally THOUSANDS of women that get raped on a daily basis, worldwide. There are people who can’t scrape together food for a meal for their family. There are people being shot for being the wrong color. I felt very angry and I had a hard time putting words to my feelings. I tried to explain to her that men get a lot of the attention, they get the better jobs, they get better treatment. People get mistreated for all kinds of things, and I am ALL FOR people being treated fairly, but really?

    Still, she persisted. Yes, I said. There are a few men that might have that problem. It’s not as if I don’t care about that, I just think that I only have so much bandwidth to worry about the world’s problems and I don’t see a lot of women raping men.

    I saw the story of Kardashian’s theft. Of course. Why it was all over the news, I have no idea. Oh, wait, yes I do… When I heard it, I had the same angry feelings I had about the men getting raped. I wanted to shout, “Who gives a shit?” Don’t get me wrong. I am all for people not getting robbed, just as I am all for men not getting raped. But, please people. We have SUCH bigger fish to fry! There is a lot of stuff going on in the world. Our attention is at a minimum and we need to fix some major problems that are out there. Let’s quit talking about this crap and get to work. That’s my two cents!

  37. Jess says:

    Although I was quite traumatized by my first home invasion and robbery, I understand the point you are trying to make. I have never quite understood the Kardashians, or more the hype of them. :/ I have been obsessed with Sound of Silence since as far back as I can remember, and the Disturbed revamp was incredibly well executed. <3 Thank you for adding this bone chilling inspiration to my Tuesday.

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  1. […] social studies educators trying to instill critical thinking skills in their students saw my recent post here on critical thinking and asked if she could use it in a newsletter to those teachers. I agreed […]

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