Riz Ahmed, playing Ruben, a drummer going deaf in “The Sound of Metal”. Click HERE to preview.
Dear R&A Community, Tuning into the rhythm of silence Hello R&A Community,
Winter 2020 Newsletter- I recently watched The Sound of Metal, a movie about a drummer in a punk band, named Ruben, who is rapidly, inexplicably going deaf. I found myself, about half way through the film, unexpectedly welled up with tears. The good fat kind. The ones I didn’t know I had in me that needed to come out. The scene that seemed to spark my salty dollops of cortisol release was one where Ruben, played by Riz Ahmed, sits at the bottom of a metal slide, his back turned away from a younger boy, who is also deaf, perched at the top of the slide. The boy begins to tap aimlessly on the metal and in so doing draws Ruben in with his sonar pings. The sound in the scene is almost absent; all we can hear are the muted bass-driven reverberations of the boy and then Mr. Ahmed’s percussive rhythms volleying back up the slide to his young friend. The boy relaxes into this ancient language, leans over and puts the side of his face onto the slide and lets Ruben’s syncopated vibrations wash over him.
I don’t know if it was the spareness of the audio, the invitation to imagine the sensory deprivation of a world without sound, the sewing together of a tenuous and longing connection implicit in the exchange, but it does strike me now that this scene is one of the few things I’ve consumed this year that captures some of my own felt sense of living alone during the pandemic. The unexpected jolt of recognizing my own disorientation in sensory deprivation and the relief of connection triggering my tears. You’ll be okay here, Ruben, love lives here too. I know we are all still inside of this pandemic experience, but it continues to strike me how hard it is to articulate how it feels to live and understand our experiences of this time.
Ruben’s gradual recognition that he can connect in the silence through what he already has within him, unpacks in mere moments what seems to have been happening on a slower scale for me, as my tendrils of connection to others reroute themselves. Last March, all day Zoom and FaceTime was disorienting…and now it is something else. Something that struck me recently was seeing a graphic representation of how mushrooms help trees talk to each other in an underground earthy internet of allocating water and nutrients in something called the mycorrhizal network, nature’s fungal world wide web.
The wordless, wireless process of how trees alert each other to danger, share and hoard resources through their mushroom collaborators, echoes my own subtle experience over this year of feeling my own human network rerouting. Connection and friendship used to feel like this, now like that. One friendship deepens, another wanes. A COVID pod becomes a family. Joy and release used to come in one form, now another or utterly unrecognizable. Nighttime felt like endless possibility or relief, now utterly long and oh so quiet. The R&A team so busy in our offices next to each other, feel closer now through great care, intention and showing up for each other virtually, yet deeply again, and again and again. One last reflection about The Sound of Metal (and this is a SPOILER ALERT in case you want to see it for yourself…proceed with caution!). Ruben, in a panic about graduating from his deaf acculturation community, decides to sell everything he owns to get cochlear implants so he can rejoin his girlfriend in Paris and go back to his life as it was with their band on the road. But nothing is as it was. The implants distort sound and make everything garbled and overwhelming. In the final scene of the movie, he takes the implants out, turns towards the newfound and tenuous beauty born from silence. “There is nothing you can see that is not a flower; there is nothing you can think that is not the moon.” – Matsuo Basho In flux, wonder and with profound gratitude to my network, Courtney Rennicke, Ph.D.