Monday, June 19

The Constance Gardner

We live in very busy noisy world.
We create for ourselves environments surrounded by cacophony.
Think about it, what is the first thing you do when you go into the car? If you’re like me, you put on the radio. At home there are many other varieties of noise available. In addition to the good old radio, there is the CD, the tape recorder, the phone, and the noisiest of all; my kids.

This background and foreground noise has its place in my life, in that it enables me to do monotonous chores without having to focus exclusively on them, as well as the sheer pleasure of listening to something good. However this ‘noise’ also serves another purpose and that is escapism. For every moment that I engage sound merely for company, there is another moment where I allow sound to take my mind off of what I don’t want to be thinking about. And when I do that, I ignore the messages from my conscious.

You’ve met Presumptua my ego; now meet my conscious, Constance. She’s very patient and tries very hard to communicate with me. This is an example of how hard she tries to get through to me:

Constance: Kasamba, you should really go and visit that old lady down the block.

Kasamba: Oh, is that the phone ringing? No? Oh, I thought I heard the phone
ringing, never mind. I’ll just turn on the blender. There, that’s better.

Constance: Kasamba, you haven’t said Tehillim for that sick man yet, have you?
You should really do it now before you forget!

Kasamba: I really should get that door fixed, it makes such a racket! All I have is
olive oil, I wonder if that’ll work? I’ll do that later anyway, for some odd
reason I just really feel like vacuuming. Yeah, that’s good.

Constance: KASAMBA, YOU AREN’T LISTENING TO ME, ARE YOU?????

Kasamba: (Fingers in ears)La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la,
I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!!!!!!


One day I came upon the realization that the most frightening part of noise pollution is how accustomed I have become to it. This epiphany came when a well-meaning person gave my toddler at the time, Tomato, a particularly loud toy with which he could play with, on a flight from New York to London. Needless to say, I was panicked by the thought of him activating this obnoxious toy during the flight. My mind was awash with images of this blaring toy shrieking its ear-splitting mantra, “I WANT A HUG!” over and over again, while flight attendants ran to and fro trying to shut it up.

But no matter what I did (plead), or what I offered (the contents of my purse and my credit card), my little boy refused to hand over his new treasure. When the plane finally took off, my son decided that he was ready to regale the other passengers with a deafening rendition of “I WANT A HUG!” and he turned his toy on. I waited and waited, but all we could hear was a small almost non-discernible “I want a hug”. I was so relieved, and I realised then just how noisy the aeroplane really was. Remember, on land this toy’s volume could have been measured by the Richter scale, and now it was barely audible over the plane’s engine!

That is exactly what happened to me in my daily life.
I had grown accustomed to my level of noise and I became desensitised to it.
I forgot what the world around me should sound like.

So I did all the things possible to fill up the audio space around me and fool myself into thinking that I was not physically alone. But I was. And as much as I tried to escape from my thoughts, Constance was waiting for me, like a patient burglar waiting for the occupants of the house to fall asleep. She had tried to communicate with me through dreams and the occasional anxiety attack, but I remained steadfast in ignoring her. The more I tried to suppress her, the more physical symptoms I had, such as stomach problems, migraines, etc.…

Rabbi Dr. Akiva Tatz once said that although our souls are thoroughly attached to our bodies, the spiritual with the physical, they both have different wants and needs. For the most part they are diametrically opposed and very rarely do they share the same desires. Every sin that we do is because we’ve listened to our physical wants instead of our spiritual wants. Taking this idea even further, noise can be described as yet another tranquilliser our body uses to move us away from spiritual self-awareness. Therefore, the basic idea is to use solitary time of stillness as a time to hear our inner voice, that of our Neshama.

I have since learned to put aside time to hear what Constance has to say. This Cheshbon Hanefesh time for me is in the evening, right before I start my Shmiras Halashon learning. It doesn’t take a long time, a few minutes maximum, but it affords me the opportunity to be introspective and know what it is that I have to do and what I have to correct in order to grow spiritually.

Oh, I still have some days that I just want stuff a sock in Constance’s mouth and tell where to go.
But I am truly grateful to her, because if she hadn’t knocked hard enough on my thick skull, I would still be running around in complete denial of what I am meant to do.

46 Comments:

At 8:58 AM, Blogger the sabra said...

ok the ants in my pants wont let me get thru ur whole post (or is it my stomach growling?)..but i did appreciate meeting Constance. im a bit confused though-i think that she may be a first cousin to my conscience.
whadaya think?

 
At 12:15 PM, Blogger Pragmatician said...

Great post.
I loved the toy example. You could use that story in another post on getting worried for nothing:)

You could climb back up since you had made an active effort not to listen to Constance, you heard but chose to block the noise.

But for those who have quit the frequency Constance speaks on, what can we do now?

 
At 12:15 PM, Blogger Pragmatician said...

Great post.
I loved the toy example. You could use that story in another post on getting worried for nothing:)

You could climb back up since you had made an active effort not to listen to Constance, you heard but chose to block the noise.

But for those who have quit the frequency Constance speaks on, what can we do now?

 
At 12:36 PM, Blogger kasamba said...

Sabra:
I think all our consciences are but a part of one big one that makes up Klall Yisrael!

Prag:
Thanks!
For me the answer was giving myself quiet time to hear what my soul was trying to tell me.

 
At 1:40 PM, Blogger exsemgirl said...

Well said. It is so true and a great comparison.

Made me think. Thanks.

Oh an btw the constant gardner is a great movie... :P

 
At 2:22 PM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

incredible post. you want to hear something crazier, in many many many homes, the minute families sit down to have a meal together, they turn on the tv - talk about background noise to avoid reality!! instead of taking the time to speak to eachother, they leave the tv on to avoid aklward silences, or worse, making conversation. it's amazing what we will do to avoid facing the truth, to avoid intimacy - with ourselves, others, g-d..
you seem like such a great person, so aware, and growing, its really a pleasure reading your post.

 
At 3:20 PM, Blogger socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Another funny one. Sometimes a hug and kiss can be impossible to get. When I ask forget it. When I don't ask sometimes my daughter will start giving me a huge hug and about 20 kisses:).

 
At 3:26 PM, Blogger TRW said...

I feel the same way...(I've even posted about it a few times!)

The worst is walking around a university campus and seeing everyone on their IPods. Technology today has gotten to the point that you can have the music fed directly into your ears, always, and you never have to hear actual, physical people talking...

 
At 3:53 PM, Blogger the only way i know said...

Hi Kas
I can totally relate to turning on the sound for escapism - although many times it eventually gives me a headache and i find that - listening to MY 'constance' gives me less of a head...and heartache - still - it's b*&% hard sometimes..

I love the idea of cheshbon hanefesh, but i'm PETRIFIED to do it - the truth about myself can be frightening!!

btw - I WANT A HUG!
:)

 
At 4:00 PM, Blogger Datingmaster, Jerusalem said...

come and tell my hundreds of readers why they should be reading your blog

 
At 5:04 PM, Blogger Limey2001 said...

does constance tell you not to support arsenal? mine says i should make belive the World Cup doesn't exist

 
At 5:28 PM, Blogger kasamba said...

Exsem:
Thanks and I must see that film!

Anonym00kie:
You are so right, people will do anything to avoid reality!
*blush- I definitely am not great, I'm just a work in progress!

Socialworker:
Consider yourself cyber hugged from me!

trw:
Wow- great point!
I-pods are the worst thing for introspection!

theonlywayiknow:
Just do it- you're better than you think!

(I sent you a mental hug- did you get it?)

DM:
No thank you.

Limey:
It's like I said to Sabra,I think all our consciences are but a part of one big one that makes up Klall Yisrael! Therefore our collective conscience says NO to the world cup!!!!!

 
At 5:55 PM, Blogger the sabra said...

ye ESPECIALLY when that doesnt let you get any flight into or around europe for about a 30 week radius!!!!!!!

babysit my constance for one sec, will ya, while i go out to take care of this...

 
At 6:01 PM, Blogger Scraps said...

I like your names for things. :)

We all do the same thing--running around, making ourselves busy, filling our lives with "noise" both literal and figurative, just so that we don't have to listen to that little voice telling us what we should be doing. It's something I must work on as well.

 
At 7:49 PM, Blogger Lvnsm27 said...

Very good point.

 
At 8:01 PM, Blogger kasamba said...

Sabra:
Oh, all right, but I can only watch her for a bit. Footballs on- I've got to go to the mall.

Scraps:
Thanks- it's easier to do all the running than listen to the little voice isn't it?

Ivnsm27:
Ta!

 
At 9:55 PM, Blogger A Frum Idealist said...

wow. another excellent post.

It's true. the battle that goes on inside of each of us on a daily basis.

very well presented.

 
At 9:55 PM, Blogger Scraps said...

Of course it's easier, that's why people stay busy rather than listen.

 
At 10:53 PM, Blogger PsychoToddler said...

I know I've gotten used to the noise because every time I start my car, the radio almost blasts my skull apart. I turn it down immediately, but I must raise again as I continue to drive, because the next time I start my car, the same thing happens.

 
At 1:03 AM, Blogger Bonnie B said...

All the background noise quiets my little ones voices. I've only just noticed that I wasn't really listening to them. Sometimes it takes overhearing a crzy kid conversation to know what you are missing.
Sometimes I think we just need to stop and listen to each other-- and that is so hard to do sometimes. It's not always pleasant. But my Constantina keeps whispering "they're only little for so long, listen and play fairies or olden times and answer their unending questions on why cats can't get married."
Sometimes parenting is miserable, but I think these are the days memories are made.

Now if I'd just listen to my husband, Constantina has a long way to go on that one.

 
At 2:54 AM, Blogger socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Thanks yay! I am truly honored to get a hug from kasamba.

 
At 5:57 AM, Blogger Okee said...

kasamba, it's quite amazing how you can write these posts that strike such a chord...

creepy...

As I was reading your posts, my ears were plugged into my iTunes and some broadway folderol...am I listening to music or just filling up my empty head? Huh. Well, after reading your post, maybe I'll "disconnect" b4 bed, and listen to my own version of Constance! G'night!

 
At 8:27 AM, Blogger kasamba said...

A Frum Idealist:
Thank you kind sir!

Scraps:
Too true!

psychotoddler:
LOL!
I SO know where you're coming from!

Bonnie:
Wow that is such a great point!

Socialworker:
Consider me 'Cyber-Hugs-R-Us'!

Okee:
a few minutes is all you need!
what show tunes do you listen to?

 
At 9:39 AM, Blogger ~ Sarah ~ said...

once again, another great post. thank you.

so true that you become desensitised to noise. while it's great that i don't notice the traffic outside any more, sometimes it's a huge effort to turn off the radio, just so i can listen to the quiet, that important inner voice or concentrate fully on whatever i'm doing.

that being said, i sat down to read this post at least five times today but each time there was some noise/distraction! finally, five minutes of relative peace to actually read it properly.

:)

 
At 11:40 AM, Blogger Also A Chussid said...

Can’t be with out my noises… It simply stops my mind from thinking; however, my conscious is ok with it, because it made him-self comfortable in my heart…

Great post. Love your style. Still waiting (not so patiently anymore) for your book.

 
At 4:17 PM, Blogger socialworker/frustrated mom said...

I sure will:).

 
At 4:20 PM, Blogger blueenclave said...

Excellent post. I experienced this very thing this morning.
Go T&T!!!!

 
At 4:32 PM, Blogger kasamba said...

Sarah:
I'm glad you finally found some quiet. hey! I guess why they call it'peace and quiet'!

Also:
Thanks!
The easy part is writing the book the hard part is waiting for the editor to get through with it!
By the time it comes out, I will have finished writing another one!

Socialwotker: :-)!

Blueenclave:
Cool- thnaks!

 
At 5:17 PM, Blogger renaissanceman said...

Excellent post! Very original!

 
At 7:01 PM, Blogger kasamba said...

Renaissance Man:
Why thank you!
(Welcome!)

 
At 10:36 PM, Blogger FrumGirl said...

So you named your neshama Constance? Pretty cool :-)

Kasamba you are so witty, I would imagine meeting you would be very entertaining!

I must say, your message is very important, you wrap it up in a great way but the underlined point is very clear, thank you. Rabbi Tatz always has the coolest takes too. I love his books, thanks for this!

 
At 12:59 AM, Blogger jim said...

Hi Kasamba, or Constance, one of you, or both, are a very clever writer of words, very effective and convincing, I always enjoy your work, whatever the subject. I wonder too, like Sabra, about the definition of your Constance, I am always confused by these identity crises, especially my own. Thanks for another great read.

 
At 3:24 AM, Blogger chaverah said...

kasamba - you are so funny! how do you come up with this stuff???? Yes "our" Constance is trying to talk to all of us. we all try to do the best we can. This is a proof that this world is created with free will. I hope we all go in the right direction.

 
At 3:32 AM, Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

lol....
I second all these comments...
Goodness the noise keeps getting louder and louder by the year

 
At 7:35 AM, Blogger kasamba said...

Frumgirl:
Entertaining hmmm maybe.... ;)
Wanna find out?
Isn't Rabbi Tatz the best?


Jim:
You are too kind!

Chaverah:
Thanks- I hope we all do!

Davod:
Thanks- it does!

 
At 2:35 PM, Blogger kollel mama said...

kol hakavod for actually listening!

 
At 8:01 PM, Blogger kasamba said...

Kollel Mama:
Better late than never!

 
At 8:48 PM, Blogger cruisin-mom said...

kasamba, could I please borrow Constance for a little while?

 
At 9:00 PM, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Many scientists believe that the brain acts as one huge filter -- we wouldn't be able to absorb everything simultaneously, and so the brain filters it out.

As long as we have a conscience to harp at us from time to time, I don't think it's a calamity that people tune out to chessed-worthy projects, or we would all go insane.

There are so many worthy causes and so many issues that need to be dealt with, one would go crazy trying to keep up with them...

Great post...waiting to see what other characters you have running around in your head! :)

 
At 9:19 PM, Blogger A Frum Idealist said...

wow... I'm a kind sir. that's a first for me. cool.

while we're already discussing naming choices, your husband was ok with you naming your children after vegetables? Tomato, is ok, but is asparagus made at you? (I don't like the vegetable, asparagus)

 
At 11:14 PM, Blogger kasamba said...

Crusinmom:
She's a real pain, are you sure you want her?


Jameel:
OMG, that is such a good point!
And on the plus side of multiple personalities, life is always interesting!

A Frum Idealist:
I LOVE the vegetable and the child Asparagus!!!

Does Hubby mind me calling the kids vegetables- well you should hear their names in Real Life!
;)

 
At 6:36 AM, Blogger the sabra said...

u mean this blog isnt ur real life?

like wait, you like have a LIFE outside of this blog?

 
At 8:08 AM, Blogger kasamba said...

Sabra:
Touche'!

 
At 11:08 AM, Blogger RR said...

Very nice, very nice! I think Constance ought to start her own blog ;-)

 
At 10:29 PM, Blogger kasamba said...

rr:
You never know!

 
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