Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Silent Running with John Milton

As a fan of WW2 films, I enjoy the films about submarines especially. One aspect that is interesting is the need, at some point in the film, for "silent running". This is when an enemy sub or surface vessel is nearby, trying to listen for sound to locate (and destroy) the submarine. The drama for the submariners in those moments is intense -- be quiet, or die! (Fans of the genre will find Das Boot the most compelling film).

In a much, much lesser fashion, my family has been "silent running" for the past couple of months. As we've told anyone who will listen, the very wonderful apartment we moved into (closer to Central Park, more spacious, more convenient to church, etc.) is owned by a management company that is, shall we say, somewhat lacking. This includes the contractor who renovated the apartment finding it easier to simply remove doors rather than repainting them. As a result, we have not been able to host anyone in our apartment in the evening. Indeed, the great challenge has been keeping the other three children quiet while the baby sleeps. And then when all the children are asleep, we are in "silent running" mode, and in near darkness, too. Because in the analogy, waking a child (particularly an infant) is akin to inviting a depth charge in a submarine!

This has been irritating, but also somewhat peaceful, on the positive side. I generally don't seek out such a tranquil setting (low lights, no talking!) from 8pm onwards, night after night for two months. No doubt I will find it a jarring change to "surface" and experience light and noise once again.

What about you -- when the power goes out, and the noise and light of our electrified world cease, do you scramble to get things going, or sit and wait in the peace and darkness? They also serve who only stand and wait, wrote the blind John Milton, in one of my wife's favourite sonnets:

On His Blindness, John Milton
When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide,
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait."


Ran Barton said...

I think you should invite people over and then explain how they must hang out in the dark and be silent with you.

Have you tried a white noise generator to help mask the pitter patter?

Clifford Swartz said...

Just put up a curtain on a shower rod to keep the living room from the children's room. And yes, noise-deafening technology is on (a fan).

We're having people over this evening but when the baby goes to sleep, out they go!