I Miss The Sounds


I read the other day, that the most dominant memories that seem to persist are smell and odor linked. Second comes sound. Strange as it may seem, for most of us it is our noses that have such a hold on our memories. The familiar aroma of baked bread, the scent of perfume or suntan lotion, the smell of coffee or herbs, the musty odor of a damp room or even the reek of rotten food…all have the power to retrieve a detailed picture of past times and either whet the palate and stimulate the appetite or repulse the body causing shudders up and down the spine. But, for me, equally important are certain sounds that evoke not just a memory but a yearning for the familiar, like a song or melody, a sound that reminds me where my roots were planted by a humanity whose differing beliefs have been under attack for many years but have not been defeated. I came to know these sounds of differing beliefs as a child raised in the Middle East and abroad.
I grew up to appreciate the vibrations of bells ringing from the belfry of churches during the long summer months of my childhood in Lebanon or schooling in England. Bells that beckon arrivals and departures, births and funerals, weddings, baptisms and a call to prayer. I miss the bells. I grew up to appreciate the echoes of praise by Imams bellowing from high atop the minarets and over flat roof tops during the hot drawn days in the deserts of Kuwait. I miss the Adhan or “call to prayer.” I grew up to appreciate the resonating sound of chimes and gongs from neighbors’ homes leading their Buddhist friends into the early hours of meditation. I miss the gongs that beckon. For these are the sounds that publicly call the populace to prayer and meditation reminding us to take a moment away from our quest for daily bread and reach within ourselves.  In a world that is constantly moving at a pace that allows little time for personal introspection, I miss the daily sounds that act as a beacon for the vines of my soul, sounds that take me back to the roots of my upbringing. These are the sounds that bring forth a familiar calm, a feeling of mysterious connectedness linking me to others despite our vast differences in the complexities of our daily lives.
Like smells that unfold memories, the ability of sound to induce meditative states is a well-known practice of thousands of years to Hindu and Buddhist, Christian and Muslim, Jewish or Shinto cultures which uses rhythmic chanting, drums, chimes, gongs, bells and repetitive verse to awaken the consciousness and revitalize the knowledge and need of prayer. In our quest for our daily bread we are often numbed by the outside world. We run to meetings, we run to leave, we buy, we sell, we negotiate and deal. As working people we have become careless with our religion, and we seem to have cut God out of our lives. And though we live in a country that allows for freedom of worship without public imposition of bells and chimes and Adhan, I truly wonder whether the non-exposure to sounds that remind us to respect the other man’s time of worship is doing us more of a disservice by promoting a further lack of tolerance and understanding of the differing beliefs.
In our constantly moving modern world, we need some grounding. Life often catches us in a web of circular mazes. But for that brief moment when we hear the sounds that remind us to breathe… the tintinnabulation of bells, the Adhan of the Imam, cantors in temples or the resonance of the gongs…it is our chance to slow down or even stop to listen, regardless of whether the sounds call me or her or him to prayer. At that moment and ever so briefly, we are all being refreshed and become vessels of God.
May each of you find that particular sound in your daily lives that will prompt you to take a moment to meditate and reflect, and for that brief moment, you and I will mysteriously connect as we remove ourselves from the daily web that robs us of our ties with God. May you find the sound that brings us together to gain strength in our pursuit of the mundane. May you find that particular sound.

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One Response to I Miss The Sounds

  1. Colette says:

    Great piece Silva! Loved it.

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