Some people find it odd that “my” library is at the end of the wing where the music department has some of their classrooms. When the air conditioning is on we close the doors, but for much of the year sounds from the band room make their way to my desk and I love it. Wednesday afternoons the jazz band plays and it’s my favorite day of the week to listen. Our teachers are so good at what they do – exposing students to music, cultivating their talents, inspiring their efforts. It truly never ceases to amaze me.

This time of year, our students are working hard to prepare for various concerts and performances and the song selections include graduation favorites such as Pomp and Circumstance, a tune that never fails to make me feel nostalgic. Hearing this song is an audible reminder that the school year is almost over, that it’s time to mark both an ending and a beginning, and it is music to my ears.

The clear delineation of the calendar is one the greatest perks of teaching for me. I’m the kind of person who appreciates a new academic year, a new semester, a new quarter, a new week and a new day because each of these milestones comes with an opportunity to start anew. I’ve always loved flipping a calendar to an entirely new month of days and a brand new notebook never failed to inspire me to attempt to do my best work. There’s always a fresh beginning for which to look forward, something different coming our way.

In the past couple of days two people whom I’ve admired and been inspired by, found themselves unable to survive the thought of another day of living. They were in a place so dark and so sad that they couldn’t see that the next day, or even the very next moment, provided another chance to start again.

As we get ready to witness the commencement of another class of students and send them off to their next life chapter, I worry that we’re creating a culture where music and books aren’t thought to belong together, but success, depression and suicide are. What are we teaching these kids? When do they get to connect – with one another and not the WiFi network? We have dozens of devices designed to facilitate conversation but no one’s really communicating.

We need to slow it down and start listening better. This is a health crisis and we can do better. Listen.

One thought on “Listen

    (for the NSA & in tribute to Vladimir Mayakovsky)

    Listen – now Listen
    it’s not what the poet says
    that these men listen to
    it’s not the Cloud in Pants
    that these men listen to
    not the poem –
    These men Listen, but
    not because the Poet
    found the sun too boring
    after he discovered electricity
    These men Listen –
    to the Poet speaking
    not to the poem
    to the Poet
    who could wrestle these men
    to the ground, who could
    kick their butts & send them
    running – but another President
    finished him off,
    and said,
    “They’re speaking Russian
    they must be spies.”
    “They’re speaking Chinese
    they must be spies.”
    “They’re speaking Urdu
    they’re speaking Farsi
    they’re speaking Persian
    they must be Terrorists.”
    “They’re speaking Arabic
    they might be – friends?
    or terrorists?”
    “They’re speaking the language
    of stars of desires of guns
    & nouns & the pluperfect subjunctive
    they’re talking about buildings
    & roads & bridges & factories
    — they’re dangerous
    you can’t trust them
    we must Listen –
    it makes us safer –

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