The Noise

Background Noise

First day of a new month and the noise is creeping back. After ten weeks of a nationwide lockdown, the restrictions are relaxing and we’re being told that we can go out and about again, at least up to a point, if we’re careful. Or meet in a park in socially distanced groups of up to six. Businesses are starting up again. Schools are reopening (but not playgrounds) and even people who have so far been “shielding” (oh, this new language) are now being given the green light to venture outside.
There doesn’t seem to be any scientific or medical evidence for easing lockdown just yet- people are still dying daily in their hundreds and Britain is pretty much the coronavirus capital of the world in terms of excess death toll. But somehow the gear has changed and the government seems hell bent on kicking over the traces of the last few months and throwing all the emphasis onto us, the public, to act responsibly, even when they have so spectacularly failed to do so themselves. I feel deeply uneasy about it all, because the pandemic is clearly not over and we are so demonstrably not ready to move on, not at all, not yet.
But even if I were to stay at home and carry on as before in my own personal lockdown, acting as if nothing were different, over the last week or so the background noise has been gradually increasing. It’s like one of those sonic hums that you can’t even hear but it gets into your head. Or like Christmas, something you might not even be celebrating for yourself but just can’t avoid the change of pace, the trappings, the different conversations and the sheer momentum of it all speeding up, choose to engage with it or not.
And the other day I was having a Zoom chat with a friend who had altered her screen background so that it looked as if she was speaking from space, with a starry galaxy behind her; if she turned up the settings the space scene showed through her eyes and mouth like an alien, and if she turned it right up to max then all you could see was background, with just the ghostly solarised shadow of her face peeping through.
That’s how I feel about the noise. That peace and stillness that was there for everyone a few weeks ago, the unconditionalness of it, was like nectar for those of us who could finally hear ourselves think and start to settle into a creative rhythm that everyday life might not have so easily allowed. So nourishing.
But I can see that peace gradually becoming infiltrated by the background noise, the settings turning up until I’m not sure where I am. As an artist and creative person, I don’t want that annoying static invading my head. I want to live in the world and work and have fun and be social but not at the expense of this hard won new peace and nourishment. It’s going to be a fight for me to acknowledge the noise but not get consumed by it, because it can be so seductive.
But artists have always lived differently; this particular period in time feels like a wake up call. How to live differently now and carry on some of the positive aspects of the lockdown time. How to be in the world, but not of it, as the Book of Common Prayer recommends. How to look more, love better, link up, think local, all those things. Tall order. But as a new month begins and the second half of an extraordinary year, I’m working on it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *