Sound off.

I’m not sure if this will be a philosophical post, by my usual standards, but I’ve had this thought going through my mind lately:

You remember my post about my struggles with asl class?

Since ASL 1 I’ve had the same problem in every class, I find myself getting sleepy and my attention wandering.

This happens in spoken classes too, but I found it to be much more immediate in ASL.

I finally decided it has to be the silence. I’m one of those people who needs almost no noise to sleep, so when I’m in a  very quiet space, it’s easy to go into sleep mode.

But this time around in ASL 4, I have a new edge to this feeling. Perhaps it’s been getting more pronounced with time, or maybe it’s the attitude of the class (as I mentioned before in Greatness: a blog essay inspired by deaf events. It’ll be listed as my previous post at the bottom.) The sensation of missing something is growing on me.

It’s kind of like a hunger. I didn’t really become aware of it till I noticed that when I leave class and my classmates and I immediately resort to English once outside the door, there’s a part of me that breathes a sigh of relief. I’m missing: Sound.

Who knew you could miss voices? But it’s not just voices, it’s any sound at at all, beyond meaningless scraping of chairs and clicking of pens.

Think about it, for many people even written words carry an idea of sound, you can hear the person’s tone in them, even if you’ve never heard anyone actually talk this way, you get a feel for their unique voice. Other people think more in images, I’m not one of them, but for a lot of us, sight and sound are almost inseparable.

I consider myself a visually oriented person overall. I like reading, watching stuff, and doing things that require visual detailing. But I missed how many of those things also involved listening. In fact, I play music while I write fairly often, I listen to things when I knit or do puzzles. I get bored very easily when there’s a lack of sound. I enjoy driving when I can hear my favorite music or talk to a passenger, I loathe it when it’s too quiet.

This can be a flaw to some extent. We need peace and quiet every now and then. But it’s also important to recall that peace and quiet are never total silence. The more you search for total silence, the more the simple sounds of nature and city life will strain your nerves.

People complain the city is too noisy, but nature is noisy in its own gentler or wilder way. I visited a state park recently, it was very quiet of city sounds, but the wind was blowing so strongly you had to speak loudly to be heard.

The sound of silence dis actually very bizarre if you ever hear it uninterrupted. And awkward. Sound is a part of this world.

To me it’s strange that there’s a group of people who’ve never experienced it at all.

I suppose you cannot miss what you’ve never had.

Still, as I’ve said, my reliance on sound is treated like some sort of reverse handicap in Sign Language. It has many advantages to it, yet it’s as if it’s only condescended to being used.

I’m not sure why so much stress is put on separating sign and sound as much as possible, except in music videos, when it’s hardly going to reflect real life.

Actually, the presence of sound in a classroom is far more realistic to how anyone in real life is going to  use signing. It’s not like hearing person can just turn off their ears, they’ll have to learn not to be distracted by sound.

Actually, I find sign great for focusing when it’s too noisy to hear myself very clearly. But when it’s already quiet, voice seems better.

Anyway, I’m not really arguing for which is better at the moment, just for not separating the two of them so much.

I wonder if Deaf people feel the same about a lack of hand movement in conversation.

I’m trying to reconcile my enjoyment of signing with my craving for sound. I don’t know if it would be so much of a problem if I didn’t find it made class so much harder to focus in. I think if we were allowed to even have music (wordless or turned down low) it would wake us up a lot.

Interestingly, I’m not the first person to note this hunger for sound. I recalled while I was writing the opening paragraphs that there’s actually a chapter devoted to this in The Phantom Tollbooth. A book I’ve read several times but never thought of in relation to this. Which is weird, because there is literally a Sound Keeper who stops all the sounds in a valley because she gets greedy for them and doesn’t trust the people to use them well. She spends her time listening to different kinds of silence, but is still able to speak within her castle and hear other noises. Milo, the protagonist, finds this selfish. She hasn’t stopped using sound, but she won’t let anyone else use it. He ends up releasing all the sounds again.

The Sound Keeper hated Dinn, the representation of chaotic noise in this book. All the sounds we hate most, like fingernails scraping a chalk board. Yet at the price of beautiful sounds like music, laughter, animals, familiar homelike things, was a little peace a quiet really worth it?

In fact, the sound of laughter later saves Milo and his two friends’ lives when they travel through the dangerous  mountains towards the end of the story.

I’m not sure quite what profound conclusion to draw from all this, other than science has recently discovered a kind of sound to be the thing that binds atoms together at the smallest level.

Hebrews 11:3 says God created the things which are seen (visual) from things that are unseen (His voice.)

Sound came before sight, oddly enough. Maybe that’s the reason it’s tied to us to tightly.

Well, that’s all for now, until next time–Natasha.


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