“It’s not a piece about silence. It’s putting parentheses around all the sounds you hear in the world.”
-Professor Jorge Lucero on John Cage’s composition, 4’33”, in which the musician does not play for four minutes and thirty three seconds.
I used to wonder why doing things seemed so central to connecting. In college I learned to play pool because I was looking for friends, and “want to play pool?” seemed more socially acceptable than “want to get to know each other?” On breaks I’d come home, and it was often in going for a hike in the hills or a swim at the beach, or in cooking a meal together, that I’d really start reconnecting with my family.
This semester I have a weekly game group that meets in the park, Saturdays from 12-2. We don’t always play our game: sometimes we make maple leaf roses, because one of us knew how to do that, and then there was the day we watched a hawk in the wind. We talk about history, or dance, and the way we put movements together. We sit in the grass. It’s lovely. And then last week it was less lovely, and for a really silly reason. I had my phone with me. Usually I put it away in my backpack. With it in my hand, I checked my work email. I opened Wizards Unite. I followed the conversation, mostly, but I didn’t watch people’s faces or run my fingers through the grass.
Until then, twelve and two had been parentheses. They’d held open a space. You could call that space two hours, or you could call it walking ants and smiling friends and following someone through her wonders until they were our wonders.
Sitting in the park my friend grinned at me. I guess you could say their grin, their attention to the moment, started playing 4’33”. I put my phone in my backpack, zipped the pocket closed, and they held up a leaf. Orange and yellow, blending between the two. They let it go and the wind carried it.