Gravity: The Sounds of Silence

It’s happened. A friend promised that by Thanksgiving, we would acclimate to the new schedule: Kindergarten, full day.

How wrong was she! We don’t even make it half way through October before I’m ditched at drop-off in favor of a small person who is hardly bigger than her Hello Kitty backpack.

Hello Darkness My Old Friend

I slide into the driver’s seat and flick on the radio to deflect the intimations my gut is lobbing like dear-John grenades.

“How much you rely on public radio,” says a familiar voice. “How would you quantify that in terms of your budget?”

Traitor! I come to you for distraction by in-depth-reporting and you give me fund-raising?

“A tee-shirt that says, ‘I Listen,’” coos the voice.

I wonder if it’s enough to get me home.

People Hearing without Listening

It’s not.

I have a choice: (1) Turn off the radio. Be still with my small sadness. Drive straight. OR (2) Change the channel to whatever all-talk extreme comes in: Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh, distraction by disgust.

Don’t judge me, people. I’m not the only one. Who’s seen Gravity? You know who you are.

Gravity is the new sci-fi movie that promises to mainstream because it tells the bottom line of the human story straight. 3D generally means a migraine for me. According to David Denby, the music alone will trigger one.

The musical score, by Steven Price, builds to brain-assaulting volume, only to break suddenly into silence. The quiet registers on our emotions with greater violence than the ferocious din. In this movie, silence is not only the sound of chilly outer space; it’s the stillness of death, whose easeful allure beckons from the opening sequence to the last.

I can’t be the only one to catch the irony: a cinematic, migraine-inducing marvel all about our uneasy relationship with the big still.

I wonder if it’s enough to get us home.

And the People Bowed and Prayed

It’s not.

“Die before you die,” warns C. S. Lewis’s god to the heroine of Till We Have Faces. “There is no chance after.”

We have a choice: (1) Refuse to deflect. Be still. Drive straight. Make our way through the (relatively) small sorrows of the present so we’re practiced when it comes to the big darkness of death. Die before we die. OR (2) Defy death. Dare the extremes. To quote Rush, another current movie, this one about Formula One driving: “The closer you are to death the more alive you feel.”

Let’s not get over-excited about door number two. Only a fool would choose real proximity to death. Real proximity to death is my friend Bill watching his wife move from melanoma to resurrection. Feeling alive and living the resurrection are two drastically different things.

“Die before you die,” says Rumi. “Become the resurrection of the spirit so you may experience the resurrection. This becoming is necessary for seeing and knowing the real nature of anything. Until you become it, you will not know it completely, whether it be light or darkness.”

Make the sounds of silence (Hab 2:20). Die before you die (Luke 9:23).

I dare you.

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