There has been a lot of “buzz” (HA!) about the song by Ylvis called “What Does the Fox Say?” And I will admit, my family has gotten a kick out of singing it and then trying to get it out of our heads. In fact, we don’t even say the name of the song anymore, simply because it is that catchy. By the way, you’re welcome for offering you that song-in-the-head for the day.
Disclaimer: I am not someone who studies sound or the science of sound, nor am I someone who studys the human auditory system or even the social and humanities related to sounds. I am an observer of sound and of people, and at times, of animals, and these are some things I’ve been thinking about lately.
As creatures, sound is a part of our communication and if not audible sound, vibration is a part of that. It was interesting to me to consider what the fox says, in connection with the things humans and animals and the earth communicate without words, but simply sounds. We communicate joy, satisfaction, pleasure, pain, sorrow, all with primal deep vibrating sounds. Sometimes we don’t even control those sounds.
I was preaching one time during a chapel service in seminary and there was a baby in the front of the sanctuary, who was a little fussy. The moment she took her first draw off of her bottle, she released a sound that communicated satisfaction. I knew that was what it meant because I had made that sound before, just as we all have. My grandpa used to hum when he was eating something he really enjoyed. I do the same thing, except I kinda dance a little too. Joy and satisfaction expressed in sound.
When I was in labor both times, I found that there was a point at which humming helped to move the baby, and release my pain. It was a low, deep rumble kind of hum, that annoyed Don to no end, but it was quite primal and cathartic for me. That sound expressed pain and hard work.
Recently I have been reminded of the sound of heart ache and disbelief, when a church member died unexpectedly of the flu. He was not a young man, but he was healthy. And I have several friends and family members who would argue that 75 isn’t old, either. No one was prepared to lose him, particularly to something that seems so benign as the flu. He never developed pneumonia. It was just the flu. He’s been gone more than a week, and many of us are still shocked. Sitting that night with the family, the widow in her grief poured out a sound that expressed many things and one thing: pain. She was shocked, and broken-hearted, and overwhelmed, and afraid, and angry, and sad, and grieving, and probably more. She was in pain. And the desire when a creature is in pain is to ease the pain, to bind up the wound, to relieve the hurt, to make it better. But there are times when the only thing we can do is offer comfort. And sometimes that comfort is in the form of silent presence. That same week, this man’s 5-year-old grandson, who lives with his pa and grandma, mom, and sister in the same house, was the one at the visitation and at the memorial service who was able to express his pain in the same way. He wailed that he didn’t want to leave pa, and he wanted to see him again. He cried a heart breaking moan that made us all aware of how much we were hurting too.
Sound is a powerful communicator, and when I am aware of it, I become more keenly attune to the sounds that are around me. The sound of bitter wind as I type this blog, makes me aware of my need to wear a coat. And that reminds me of my gratefulness that I have a warm coat to wear, and that gratefulness reminds me of so many other blessings: a warm house and office with working electricity (knock on wood), good food that is nourishing, the love of a family who supports and cares for and shares joy and sorrow together.
Next time you are hearing a sound that is out of the ordinary, pay attention, and see what you learn about yourself and about creation.