In many world societies, however, there are still spaces—if only interior, or metaphorical, or temporal—set aside for contemplation, for noiseless recalibration of the soul, and in contemporary American culture there are almost none. Our social rituals are constrained by the incessant soundtrack imposed in our public spaces, and our places of worship, by and large, have given themselves over to a muzak-based sense of liturgy that tells us at every step of the way what to feel and with what intensity.
I think this is why I no longer listen to candidates.
Oh I am interested in what they think, and what they do, and how they might govern, but I no longer consider any sounds that they make a reliable guide. Their sounds are muzak, designed to elicit emotion and muzzle thought. And as Rick pointed out the other day, good campaigns are about emotion, brilliant campaigns about “grudges.”
Debates are a bit better. At least in those the performers have to show some improvisational skill. But debate formats limit those moments to a few sharp licks. No extended solos, please, where you might really show your stuff (or ramble your way to nowhere and then slink back to the chorus).
Again from Waggoner:
For us to be able to enter the world that music creates for us, we need a silence within which to listen.
Put the political sounds down in writing and I am happier. In a quiet setting, or even some noisy ones, I have time to think about the words, to detach them away from their delivery and their accompaniment, and consider what they mean. Interviews are even better. I actually learned something about Hillary Clinton from this Salon interview (subscription may be required.) It gave me a glimpse of what she thinks and how she reasons. Idealized to be sure. But having it on paper—or in my computer at least—allows me to the space consider what the ideal may reveal about the reality.
Why bother with these things? With rare exception, these set pieces are composed to minimize communication by the distribution of a few plucky facts in a 1000 strings of emotion. So I don’t listen any more, even to those politicians I respect.