The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 28, 2008

Opinions

“We are the music-makers . . .”

This week Carlisle eyes have been focused on Japan in cross-cultural celebrations of baseball and of music.

Early Tuesday morning a number of Carlisleans rolled out of bed to watch the Red Sox in their dramatic overtime win over Oakland in the season opener at the Tokyo Dome. Later that same day nearly 100 students from Sapporo, Japan – members of the Sapporo Shiroishi Symphonic Wind Ensemble – arrived at Concord-Carlisle High School, where they met up with their host families from both towns. The Japanese students will perform with the CCHS Concert Band and the Repertory Band at Symphony Hall in Boston this evening. For students who speak the universal language of music, this has to be a highlight of their young lives.

From past experience, the language gap seems not to be insurmountable, with the help of Japanese/English dictionaries and abundant displays of smiles and gestures. Thanks to the Internet, Japanese students and their host families have been in touch, discussing menus (hamburgers, pizza and anything sweet were high on the Japanese list) and planning activities that could be squeezed in between band rehearsals.

Orchestrating these visits requires a tremendous organizational effort by CCHS teachers, parents and students. The local host families take their jobs seriously and do their utmost to make their student’s visit memorable.

This week’s visit continues a musical exchange program begun by CCHS music director Al Dentino and guidance counselor Tom Curtin in the late 1990s, when the Sapporo students came here to play with CCHS bands, and CCHS students traveled to Sapporo and Nanae (Concord’s sister city) for joint concerts with their Japanese counterparts. So it began, and still it flourishes.

The opportunity for students from disparate cultures to come together from great distances, share family meals, go shopping, attend classes and make music together is truly extraordinary. In a world where teens can communicate across the globe via the Internet and can “friend” total strangers on Facebook, the face-to-face friendships of the Japanese and CCHS students is inspiring. When students speak of tearful farewells after only the briefest of encounters, on one side of the Pacific or the other, something special has happened. Senior Zachary Lou, who traveled to Japan with the CCHS Band last year said, “What I really didn’t expect was forming deep bonds with students from halfway around a world which now seems so much smaller.”

Poet Arthur O’Shaughnessy wrote, “We are the music-makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.” The Japanese and American music-makers share a love of music while gaining an understanding of cultural differences. It is likely that many are also “dreamers of dreams” in this extraordinary week in our town.

Finding quiet

Back when we were first planning our move to Carlisle, the Boston Globe ran one of its periodic “community profiles” on the town. In the introduction, it described in some detail the sound of geese flying overhead, as heard from the town center, to emphasize the writer’s point that “above all else, Carlisle is quiet.”

Not much has changed in Carlisle to drown out the sounds of migrating birds or rustling leaves in the years that have followed. But if Carlisle itself is still quiet, our lives are not so much.

From the moment the alarm clock’s call rousts me in the morning to the time I fall asleep at night, I am surrounded by an almost incessant blare of sound, most of it electronically generated. The morning television news plays while I shower and dress for work, and either NPR or an audiobook accompanies my ride to work. During the day the telephone is the primary audible encroachment, though e-mail and the Internet serve as equally potent - if silent - electronic distractions. Wherever I am, my mobile telephone ensures that my family, friends and co-workers can find me – and I them.

I traveled for a year between college and law school, mostly in North Africa. We depended on Poste Restante for communication to and from the States. Last week, by contrast, when I wondered if our younger son had made it safely back to campus from Europe after his March break, I checked the airline’s web page, then called his cell phone moments after his flight touched down. I marvel at the availability of constant contact, and at my own parents’ ability to manage their concerns without similar methods, when I was away.

The ubiquity of contact and information is of course a double-edged sword. We can summon help in an emergency. We can maintain valued relationships at a distance. We learn of important news developments almost as they happen. But we are almost never quiet.

Much of our connectivity is of our own choosing. How many times have I turned my car around to retrieve my cellphone, upon discovering that I left it at home? I keep at least three e-mail accounts open simultaneously on my desktop, in order to see new messages as they arrive. A fourth browser tab monitors breaking news. So I cannot claim to be a victim of unwanted intrusion from the outside.

With our nest now empty, I sometimes find occasions when I might unplug, if I choose. I may be alone in the house, and turn off the stereo, television and computer. The sensation is eerie at first, but (above all else) quiet. I’ve begun on occasion to turn off the radio while driving alone, continuing in silence. Lost in only my own thoughts, I meander mentally through a landscape of unfinished business, while resisting the urge to grab a pen and paper to organize it all.

When I really need quiet, two places in Carlisle reliably suffice.The Estabrook Woods are magically restorative, winter or summer. And among the quietest and most mysterious places I’ve ever been is the swamp behind our house, on snowshoes, when it is frozen over in January.

Most of all, though, quiet is a state of mind as much as a designated decibel level. Just as noise can be either audible or virtual, quiet comes best when my mind is at rest, rather than my ears. Whether it is by walking into the woods, or away from the phone, sometimes we all just need to find quiet.

 

 

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