Monday, July 20, 2015

I'll Take a Quiet Life

Silence is priceless to me. I seek it out obsessively, looking for a moment or two in the rare ebbs and lulls of my life. Silence doesn't mean a lack of noise, but rather a chance to let my thoughts and emotions rise above the outward cacophony. On my short commute to and from work, I listen to music from my iPod (never the radio, ew), and it's usually carefully chosen. It needs to fit my mood, and apparently my mood the past year or so has been best reflected by the music of Radiohead.

One of the songs that often captures my mood, as well as my general desire for silence and peace, is "No Surprises," off the album "OK Computer." The entire album is about alienation, and "No Surprises" speaks to the pervasive suburban emptiness I find myself feeling, and that I crave in a resigned way.

I'll take a quiet life
A handshake of carbon monoxide
With no alarms and no surprises...
Silent, silent

Most days I just want to be left alone, tucked into my anonymous corner of this vast world. I'll accept whatever is given me, so long as that handshake brings me the promise of predictability and, above all, silence. No voices telling me what to think or do, no winds ruffling my hair, no rain pelting my skin. Slack tide. Stillness. A cloak of solitude, where nothing can find me. That's what I want.

It's nearly impossible to have for any amount of time. The shouts and bangs and ringings and clamors of life penetrate the cocoon and force me to engage with them. The noise might be an unpaid bill or a plate dropping on the floor – both give me a start. They didn't always cause such a visceral reaction, but my guess is the wreck in 2010 lowered my tolerance for racket of every kind.

A heart that's full up like a landfill
A job that slowly kills you
Bruises that won't heal
You look so tired, unhappy...

The noise causes that landfill to stack up higher and higher, desperately seeking a place to be released. The emotions pile atop one another until they've no place else to go, so they slip and collide and undercut each other, and those slices of silence bulge as the landfill tries to empty itself all at once. The thoughts and feelings can't be sorted out before the noise resumes.

I've never been able to take people in large doses. They only make life more inscrutable. I tend to live inside my own head, and there always seems to be an invisible wall between me and other people, whether it's my wife, parents, good friends, co-workers, acquaintances, strangers. I can connect with them, to a point, but I can't let them in because I don't know how. Or maybe I just don't want to, because that would make the silence all the more elusive.

So I come off as aloof or uncaring or, worst of all, apathetic. I don't like to talk, so that doesn't help the perception. But the less I talk, the less others talk to me (in theory), therefore – silence. Silence is the only place where I feel comfortable. It's a place I use to go to more often, when I was young and life had yet to fully spring itself upon me with its demands and distractions. That's probably what I miss most about my childhood, is the ability to lie quietly on the carpet in my room and imagine little men playing baseball in front of me. The easiest way for me to return there is by getting lost in a song that speaks to me either through the lyrics or the music (preferably both).

I get lost in Radiohead all the time. It's my oasis of silence.

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