Eat Oranges...

It's noise time in the United States. It happens every four years, when we try to separate the valid from the varnished. Which noise conveys useful information? Whose noise resonates, and whose has a bitter aftertaste?

Think of these three tranches of information:

“I don't have school this week.” (8th grader)

“They closed the school because so many kids were sick.” (parent)

“The Health Department forced us to close the school.” (principal)

They are all true, but slices of a greater whole. And the implications are quite different. It was Friedrich Nietzsche who told us, “Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions”. When common illusions coincide, is that a definition of peaceful coexistence? When two sets of illusions butt heads, does war result?

Politics have become national war games. Take a look at Thotheca 7.

You could say that the earth is about to self-destruct in a massive explosion. Or perhaps we are looking at cancer cells at the moment they break loose and metastasize. Or maybe our terror of terrorism has turned us into Orwellian citizens of the United States of Anxiety. If Franklin Roosevelt's dictum, “we have nothing to fear but fear itself”, holds true, then we are indeed in dire straits today, driven to political anorexia by the bugaboo of terrorism.

Are there terrorists out there? Of course. Just as there are rabid fear -mongers in here. But allowing these currents to destroy a free and democratic society is truly self-defeating. No need to fly more planes into cloud scratchers (an early German word for skyscrapers). Just look closely at the two warring dynasties trying to recapture the White House lease: are you sure you want to rent your prized piece of national real estate to either of them?

Nico Muhly is a 24-year-old composer who is the darling of the music world right now. He has been known to collage the sounds of a mezzo- soprano singing her old addresses on top of a tape of a friend showering and eating. Noise is his matrix, and yet much of his music has an attenuated, drawn-out etherealism where the unearthly silences convey enriched information of their own. It doesn't quite reach the level of John Cage's infamous composition, "four minutes thirty-three seconds", where a tuxedo-clad pianist sat down at the piano and did nothing more than occasionally turn a page for that length of time. Cage was apparently searching for silence. Instead, according to Peter Gutmann, Cage heard “the pulsing of his blood and the whistling of his nerves”.

When Israel bombed Syria on September 6, 2007, no one seemed willing to give a lucid explanation of why it occurred. In “A Strike in the Dark”, Seymour Hirsch plowed through multiple rationales and finally came up with this statement from a Tel Aviv-based ambassador: “The truth is not important. Israel was able to restore its credibility as a deterrent. That is the whole thing. No one will know what the real story is”. Salman Rushdie, in "the Shelter of the World", tells us of a magical city with a nonexistent royal queen who was invented by the Emperor and worshipped by his court. "She was an imaginary wife, dreamed up by Akbar in the way that lonely children dream up imaginary friends, and in spite of the presence of many living, if floating, consorts, the Emperor was of the opinion that it was the real queens who were the phantoms and the nonexistent beloved who was real." If emperors in China centuries ago could decide what key all music had to be composed in for that year, why not a designer queen? Some call the Syrian strike fact and the Rushdie tale fiction, but is there really a border between them?

Noise is not a Mitt Romney haircut. Noise is sloppy, chaotic, uncontrollable, and democratic. Maybe Thotheka #7 is telling us something important about ourselves, something wildly jubilant, exuberant, and “yes we can”. Is this what Obama has tapped into?

Yes, it is noise time again. Eat some fresh oranges. Watch funny movies. Listen to the silences, and find the truth that speaks to you.

c. Corinne Whitaker 2008