What Sound Did Your Year Make?

A year’s reflection through sensory metaphor.

Recently I was reflecting on my year and the scene that entered my mind came through a unusual doorway. The scene was that of a drum set tumbling down two flights of stairs, and it came through as sound sound in addition to the imagery. A full-on rock drum kit, complete with bass drum, tom-toms, crashes and symbols, sticks, pedals, stands and snare. The whole nine yards, down two flights of stairs.

Beyond the image, it was the sound that captured my imagination.

And, yes, the sound that it made was tremendous. A thunder of metal, thumping toms, clanging symbols all in a crash. It was loud, uneasy, cringe-worthy. It got my attention.

In considering this metaphor for my year, it’s fitting. Not a complete disaster, but certainly not smooth and rhythmic. Old systems were dismantled. Many of the parts and pieces broken up and cascading. What was once organized and in some sync, became discordant and dissonant. Some might call it music, the way that some people love hip-hop or heavy metal, but others would likely just call it noise. Certainly, it was a sound that I could not ignore.

In the end, no one was really hurt. There was no irreparable damage done and the pieces, which are all there for me to reassemble or not, as I wish. And, as I reflect on the sound made and the metaphor as a whole an invitation was born to reassess and reassemble all parts, seen or unseen, into something completely new.

Each act of creation is, in some way, an act of destruction, or at least letting go. So, the metaphor worked for me to reflect into and learn from.

This got me thinking, what sound does our life make? Are we giving our attention to these sounds? Are we listening to the music, rhythm, harmony, or discord of the sound our life is making? Are we playing along with this sound, dancing to whatever tune it might be making making or are we attuned to some other real or imaginary beat, perhaps made by another?

I’ve found this line of questioning helpful for a couple reasons.

First, it takes us into an important human sense that many of us tend to take for granted. Our eyesight (for those blessed enough to have it) accounts for 80% of our sensory input. The others we own (again, assuming we have them), including sound, account for ranging portions of the rest and this varies in each of us. Through sound we hear speech, communicate and are often be moved emotionally. Sound allows us to socialize, communicate, be alerted to warning signals and stay connected to the world around us.

Helen Keller, who was deaf and blind, noted that deafness was a worse misfortune than loss of sight.  “…after a lifetime in silence and darkness that to be deaf is a greater affliction than to be blind… Hearing is the soul of knowledge and information of a high order. To be cut off from hearing is to be isolated indeed.”

Second, I like that this metaphorical sound question because it takes us into an inner listening realm that we’re both familiar with, but seem rarely to give deep attention to—at lease this is true for me. Through the sound metaphor I’m taken out of my strategic mind and my less-considered sensory field is engaged into a contemplative realm. Even my “drum set tumbling down stairs” metaphor first came to me through my mind’s eye, which we can first attribute to sight, but the sound element, in this case, was most informative.

So, at the end of the year during our reflection time, what sound did your year make? Was is a three-movement symphony filled with the ranges of allegro, adagio, allegro? Or the sound of a heated debate among bitter rivals? A rolling ocean? A NASCAR racetrack? A country-western ballad? If it made a sound, what does this sound say to you? Play with this and see what you hear.

— / / —

You Start Dying Slowly By Pablo Neruda

You start dying slowly

if you do not travel,

if you do not read,

If you do not listen to the sounds of life,

If you do not appreciate yourself.

You start dying slowly

When you kill your self-esteem;

When you do not let others help you.

You start dying slowly

If you become a slave of your habits,

Walking everyday on the same paths…

If you do not change your routine,

If you do not wear different colours

Or you do not speak to those you don’t know.

You start dying slowly

If you avoid to feel passion

And their turbulent emotions;

Those which make your eyes glisten

And your heart beat fast.

You start dying slowly

If you do not change your life when you are not satisfied with your job, or with your love,

If you do not risk what is safe for the uncertain,

If you do not go after a dream,

If you do not allow yourself,

At least once in your lifetime,

To run away from sensible advice…

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