The Quietest Sounds

Two feet of snow has a way of domesticating the populace. Only now are people venturing out to the task of errand-running. Finding myself out with hopes of having my hair trimmed, I sat waiting across the room from a mother soothingly humming to calm her small child. Her songs choices included the well familiar tunes of Pour Some Sugar On Me and Hey Ya!, reassuring her little child with the familiar folk songs of our time. Melodies sung to the next generation encompassing famous times of yore. Needless to say, the child was soothed and we all enjoyed our wait in peace, undisturbed by a child's exuberance (music from the overhead speakers continuing to supply comfortable noise to the untrimmed assembly).

The snow was beginning to melt, and obviously the audible drone had begun again. For, this snowy imposition, along with stopping errand traffic, lends its wonderful dampening affect to the hum of musical and non-musical modern noises. Although possibly just a white, fluffy supplementing happenstance, I had already been enamored lately with just these hidden, quietest of sounds close about me and the snow only added to the wonder: my feet on the creaking wood floor, setting down a cup, rubbing my hand across my chinny-chin-chin, etc.

It all began when wearing headphones (coincidentally) between songs. All the sounds of movements (rustling of my shirt and my breathing in and out) were amplified in my ears and I was reminded of the crystal clear natural "movement sounds" in Masterpiece Theater films like Bleak House or the movie Lincoln. In the quietness of the solitary individual footsteps, creaks, fingers tapping on a desk, a ticking clock, the shrug of a shoulder, and the crunch of snow under foot, life is given a natural clarity. The amplification of quiet sounds adds such a poignancy to the story portrayal. Though amplified for our pleasure in films, they are no less loud in reality if we can only get rid of all the other noise to enjoy them. This theme was one of the aspects that I enjoyed most from my brother R.E. Tippin's notes on his time at a monastery. His description moved like a fairy tale upon my mind as he painted the simple scene of the sounds at the dinner table!

The delight of my heart as of encountering fairyland in Eric's portrayal and my own quiet moments is rooted in an ancient magic. This interaction to make little sounds gives me strangely new understanding of being alive and awareness of the brevity of life on earth. Many have come before, even just short years ago, who can no longer make any kind of sound or have the slightest affect on the physical world as I can at this moment. These fingers of mine, whose atoms were spoken into existence brief years ago, freely go on tapping out a rhythm on my knee. But the opportunity won't last long for me either and I will be dead below the ground if the LORD tarries. We wait, with those who have fallen asleep, for the resurrection with physicality. In this we will follow our LORD as His resurrected body would have caused the snapping of sticks in making a fire while his feet quietly trod on the seaside. He will make all things new to relieve the groans of the earth, but His power and wisdom even now are made ever clearer as my walking stick taps the path and makes a small sound ring forth. Life has sound effects!

Although I could stop right here, I would be doing a dis-service to the quiet genre ever fighting the background music of our time. For, there is not just one but two types of quiet sounds: the subtle ones mentioned above and the ones which are only quiet because of the distance from their source!

Pervasive and permeating indeed is the modern hum! However, the source of this constant sound is quieter than the historical equivalent because it is ever near: ten short feet to the store speakers, an arms length to the car radio, and physical intimacy with headphones. In days of old (as noted in the passage London Bells and London Cars) this was not the case. The source of the music and songs were more scarce and therefore had to be louder at their source to have any kind of reach. For this reason, the music of the church bell rang clear at a distance but with alarming power and vibration in its very presence.

The hymns of the bells from the steeples have informed generations quietly from a distance as daily work was performed. The impact could gain its full voice, however, the closer one came to the source. The weekly gathering of the body at the very center to once again tune hearts to sing His praise, to regain right thinking before the Father who calls us while we were yet sinners going our own way upon the hills! In the days of now, chimes are ever nearer, yet with my ear smashed all the way against the speaker grill I do not come any closer to the music of the spheres.

The reminder must be noted then that even in these weekly moments of relative boisterous sound as we gather together with the body are only hushed whispers across time relative to the day the voices grow into the roar of the multitude as the throng of those robed in white by the blood of the lamb, the song of life becoming overpowering in the beauty of its Theme, draws near the throne. For here is the Source of all music, ruling with utter power and majesty. Although the bells of this music now only just reach our hearts over the distance, these soft pure tones are enough because we know the Source!

So, we are left with these two quiet sounds: the softness of the now and the softness of the melody in the distance!

LORD, tune my heart to sing your praise,
Your distant bells ringing in the vale of days.

Phillip Tippin
A few days ago
Roeland Park, KS