I’ve been thinking again about the tension of living between the quiet voice and the urgent alarm. If you lived in Hawaii this past weekend you’d still have alarm withdrawal going on in your psyche. Nobody would say we shouldn’t have blaring alert systems, even after one misfired and people panicked. But we cant live with the heightened noise level that seems to be so much of the modern “reality show” of life in this nation now. I don’t know how I would have handled the alarm, but I know I would have prayed.
With some friends a while back, we were looking at images at an exhibit, when each phone in each pocket started echoing an Amber Alert. Beyond the walls, someone was in real trouble. Devices were pulled out, screens looked at, a couple prayers whispered. . . and then silence. The phones were put away, some turned off. The alarm was frightening; the quiet voices in response much more sustaining.
There are two very different realities going on in our time. One is slow, steady and uncelebrated. The other is an irritating, very troubling scramble for attention. One is loud and obnoxious. We all hear it. We’re all sick of it. There’s another sounding, but you have to tune your ears to hear it
I slammed my computer closed this morning. The click-bait headlines have me so wearied, sickened. You can point fingers, but we’re all in this thing together. So, I did the next thing in my little life. I went to the grocery store. I had to do this anyway today, but I got there early and started to relish the simple tasks of handling and selecting real live things that will make a difference in our well being this week. I got to choose. I chose to enjoy the steps, the colors, the kindness of the produce man. I don’t think I have ever enjoyed a grocery trip more! I came home with several bags of supplies, and arranged some on my counter like a Dutch still life. Art is not imitating life here. Real life was already happening. You could rather say Life is imitating art of a sort. This is some of the gleanings I’ll use up this week.
I think of the Northern European “vanitas” paintings, where commodities (due to increased trading and middle class means) would be arranged in a collection, then painted in oil. The intention of vanitas, was to show symbolically that the everyday things (like an orange half peeled) were all stand-ins for moments in time. And bigger than that was the idea that the temporal things would decay but the moment would be marked as a time of reflection and joy. That’s small voice stuff. That’s the kind of thing that reality shows can’t show you.
Come tomorrow. Come what may. I’ll be listening for the quieter voice.