Stannard: The sound of silence

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.  

There's a lot of noise in the world. Not just the obvious noise of cars and trucks and TVs. There's the constant din that exudes from the White House. The noise from those who want to move into the White House. The noise of social media. Virus noise.

Some noise is better than other noise. When I was 6 years old I began playing the piano. At 11 I moved on to the drums; now there's some serious noise for you. In 1969 at 18 I picked up a Hohner Marine Band harmonica and have maintained a relationship with that noisemaker ever since.

It's taken a while to appreciate the various noises out there and the impact that they have on our lives. About a week ago I made the decision to limit my participation in social media to that of my music and the music of others. For some time now I have been a regular contributor to the political noise on social media and came to what should have been the obvious conclusion; that it's a complete waste of time. Social media does play a role, for sure. Probably its best use is to allow us to reconnect with old friends and stay connected to current friends. Anything beyond that is noise.

You can find some pretty tough dialog out there that does little to resolve anything. People argue for the sake of arguing. Been there, done that. People, perhaps our enemies, post misinformation, disinformation and straight up lies with the intent of driving us further apart. It works, too, as long as you participate.

There's a lot of negative energy out there and it continues as long as we let it. Conversely, there's a lot of positive energy out there that can continue if we let it. It all comes down to what you prefer to be, positive or negative. Hey, I'm as guilty as the next guy. I've been both. I think we all struggle to channel our inner angels, but there are times when it's hard. There is much to be angry about in today's world.

This morning I read an interview in the New York Times by David Marchese. He interviewed Sonny Rollins; one of the greatest jazz musicians of all-time. The saxophone was the noise machine of choice for Rollins, now 89 years old.

In the interview Rollins reflects on his life of music and observations on life in general. Sonny Rollins did his last show in 2012 and for health reasons had to stop playing his beloved saxophone in 2014. Think about that for a minute. Imagine what it would be like to be one of the best saxophone players in the world and never able to play again. Your identity is laid to rest into the coffin-like case right along with the now silent instrument.

What now? Do you hate life because you can no longer play the instrument that made you world famous, or do you love your life because now your world is silent? Here's Rollins' take on silence:

Article Continues After These Ads

Is your relationship with silence different these days?

"That's an excellent question. I used to look at TV a lot. Then I realized, this is very negative. Images and lies and bad for your eyes: I made sure that mantra got in my head, and I stopped looking at TV. I do listen to the radio. I'm trying to get away from that. Silence to me is meditative. To get into that silent space is a huge thing. But even today I've had the radio on so much. It's something I'm working on."

Do you ever get lonely up here in Woodstock?

"On occasion. Fortunately not too often. I like being alone, actually. I have my yoga books. I have my Buddha books. I have a lot of spiritual material that I need to get with. At my age, all my friends are gone.

At one time I began to lament that and then I said, 'No, this is good that I have nobody to call and waste time talking.' Every now and then I do go, 'Yeah, man, I'm lonely, let me call somebody up,' but to me that's a weakness. I have to deal with myself. That's what it gets down to for each of us. Understanding is up to you. It's up to me. There's no escape. I got pains and aches all over but spiritually, man, I feel better than I've ever felt. I'm on the right course.

We all make our own noise. The question is do we hear it and if so do we like what we hear? If you do, great. If not, then either change the instrument, or better yet, turn down the volume. You may discover that silence is the noise you're looking for.

Here's the rest of the interview with Sonny Rollins:

Bob Stannard writes a regular column for the Journal.


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions