Radical quiet – a lesson

Due to the worldwide reset commonly referred to as COVID-19, Grange, our 20-year-old son, has returned to Bluff after a two-year stint at the University of Utah.

Grange was just finishing his sophomore year in the Honors College at the “U” when the crisis struck. While he is sure to complete the program, the structure of his coursework is, at this point, uncertain.

No one seems to know what higher education, or for that matter many other aspects of life as we knew it, will look like in the coming months, or even the coming years.

For his part, Grange is hoping it gets back to “normal” soon. He does, however, realize that is unlikely and may turn out to be highly unlikely.

As part of the honors program, Grange is required to take certain courses intended to broaden his outlook and help make him a better citizen of the world.

Before the administration closed the dorms and sent everyone packing for an indefinite period, Grange was happily studying, spending time with his buddies, and generally enjoying college life.

Now he is stuck at home with two people who were only recently acclimating to being empty in the nest.

One of the classes Grange was enrolled in during this circumscribed semester is entitled “Radical Quiet.”

The syllabus for the course states, “As a counterbalance to the loud and fast modes so predominant in today’s society, Radical Quiet proposes, explores, and develops vital alternatives: quiet and slow ways of living, learning, and appreciating our lives and the world around us.”

That used to be necessary, and now… Well, we’ll just have to wait and see what the future brings.

As Jana, Grange, and I walk Pearl the Dog around our neighborhood in the evenings, the conclusion that radical quiet has settled over this small town, and likely the entire outside world, is inescapable.

While we stroll the deserted streets, marveling at the quietude, I am reminded how extraordinarily different our lives were just a few weeks ago.

As the stars blink and the satellites sail across the sky, at times it seems light years ago that we hurried through our evenings, not recognizing these simple and yet profound phenomena.

For the past several days a song by Garth Brooks titled “Unanswered Prayers” has been rolling through my mind, waking me at night, and generally reinforcing how quickly everything turned upside down.

While Garth’s lyrics relate to unreciprocated high school love and the lessons learned from requests made but not granted, my focus has been on the hectic pace we at Twin Rocks were keeping as recently as March.

At that time, 60-hour work weeks were the norm, and I was already petitioning the Good Lord for a reprieve, for some acute changes.

Well, my prayers have apparently been answered. The only abatement I am looking for now is from this virus and its shocking effects on our everyday lives.

Each night when I go home far earlier than I ordinarily would, I cannot believe how tired I am from doing nothing all day.

Vital alternatives and new strategies for coping with the “loud and fast modes so predominant in today’s society” seem unnecessary. Those loud and fast modes have vanished.

The syllabus for Radical Quiet goes on to state, “Silence will be our teacher; music will include ‘the space between the notes’; and artistic concepts, structures, and forms will be the architecture for our learning and experience.

“Themes include (1) the quiet power of introversion and contemplation, (2) the environmental and social effects of noise, (3) the skill and practice of listening.”

Although those seem universal themes at present, despite the lack of our past busyness, they may be more applicable than ever. Maybe, just maybe, there is something to be learned from the present pandemic.

Maybe we should all celebrate the opportunity to have more radical quiet in our lives. But maybe, just maybe, we can also have a little of that old-fashioned noise as well. I’ll send up a prayer.

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