Thursday, April 07, 2016

The Sound Of Silence

Last week, WCS went still-mode. Our bell system and intercom were having problems so technicians came in for a look. What they found was not encouraging. Christy McDonald, our Upper School secretary, told me the system is thirty years old, the installing company is out of business, and if they can't refurbish the control center, we will have to get a brand new system whose cost will be daunting. Hopefully, there will be an answer within the week. Hopefully, the answer will be the least expensive of the two options!

It's funny but I never really grasped how much school life is orchestrated by bells and announcements. By my unscientific count, the bells are sounded thirty times per day at Westbury Christian,  from the 6:45 AM ring announcing  detention to the 3:45 PM sounding which means if you aren't in a practice or tutoring, you must be in extended care. My mind is conditioned to wait for, or at least expect, the bells. It's the same for our devotional and announcements which come during home room after first period. I feel subconsciously something is missing because .... it is. The lack of intercom availability also changes my teaching in subtle ways. Several times a day, the red button on my wall is pushed and I ask Christy/the office a question or pass along some helpful piece of knowledge. I can send an e-mail which is too slow or a student which is disruptive or just let it go, the most common remedy. There are other residual spillovers. Letting kids out of class on your own is inexact. Also, hard to count a kid tardy when I'm not sure if they have had the four minutes allowed under normal circumstances. The most interesting comment I've heard was from two high school young ladies. They expressed concern that with a new bell system, the sound might be different and thus unsettling. I'm not sure I agree but I'm not a teenager.... or a girl.

This is no blanket condemnation of anyone but I am increasingly aggravated with headphones. A large percentage of our students, who are wonderful youngsters, have plugged ears as they sit or walk down the hallways before school. Countless times I've greeted them to no avail as they listen to music, allowable under school policy until the 7:40 bell. (Back to the bell issue!) They aren't impolite but they are missing an opportunity to interact with another human being in a non-electronic format. Fortunately, they can't wear them all day but wasted conversations, even short ones, can't be retrieved. Look, I understand listening to music- it's part of a generation's heritage. I do worry when it comes to shutting out all other voices which could, or maybe should, command our attention. Maybe we are all increasingly uneasy with stillness. Silence never seems to be given credence as a virtue. And yet we know as believers that hearing God requires silence and attention and focus and concentration. In Psalm 46, the sons of Korah wrote these immortal words:
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” 
And I will always be partial to these words from the prophet in Habakkuk 2:20 as we often sang them when I was little before breakfast:
The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.
Paul Simon in the 1960s wrote that silence had a sound. Can you hear something that is silent? Or maybe silence allows us to hear what the world is drowning out. Maybe his song rings a bell. That's good- I hear no bells in my foreseeable future!

Applicable quote of the day:
Silence is as deep as eternity, speech a shallow as time. 
Thomas Carlyle

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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