Sympathetic Resonance

Racism is on the brain today. It’s been there for a while, and maybe it hasn’t been there long enough. I recognize that because I am a white, heterosexual individual, I often don’t see the effects of racism or bigotry until it hits a national scale. There are a lot of people in the United States who are hurting. There are a lot of people who are pushing back, and there are a lot of people who don’t know how to respond or how to help.

It’s a bit overwhelming to think that now is the time that we need to deal with this; many of us have put it off because we haven’t felt ready. But there are those who haven’t felt ready and have dealt with it every day of their lives. Personally, I have felt crippled by a lack of understanding of what to do, and at times, disgustingly enough, a lack of motivation.

On a seemingly unrelated (but very, very related) note, I watched a Youtube video about sympathetic resonance, and now I’m trying to rethink the way that I take action in this world.

For those who haven’t brushed up on their musical theory (and don’t feel like watching the twelve and a half minute video I just linked to), sympathetic resonance is a harmonic phenomenon that happens when you strike a vibratory body, and other nearby bodies of harmonic likeness that were formerly passive begin to vibrate to match the external vibrations of that first body. The simplest way to see this in action is to place two tuning forks which are tuned to the same note next to each other. If you strike the first tuning fork, then stop its vibration with your hand, you will hear the un-struck fork resonating. This doesn’t just work for the same note – if the second fork were tuned to harmonize, then it will still respond, just not as loud – the closer in likeness it is, the louder it will respond.

The same goes for guitars, pianos, and other string instruments – that is why a digitally created sample of an instrument just doesn’t sound quite the same, because it doesn’t have that sympathetic resonance in the background. Playing a string on a live guitar or a key on a live piano transfers a little bit of energy to the surrounding strings, creating a “glow” as they respond.

This has really gotten me thinking lately. In light of the Charlottesville white supremacist march, and in regards to the amount of hate groups that have surfaced all over the country in alarming amounts, sympathetic resonance is a concept that needs to be plucked from the music world and placed in the real world. If a minority speaks out, those with “harmonic likeness” that were formerly passive need to resonate, vibrating to match. If we find ourselves being passive, we need to tune ourselves to those in need, so when they call, we respond. Those who are dissonant need to see that our melody is enforced — we stand together, connected by a common harmony. Harmony will drown out dissonance any day.

I think a lot of time when someone wants to stand with minorities, the first instinct is to play their own note in support… but this can drown out the original melody, and shift the focus of the song. If you support someone, give them the “glow”.

What’s even cooler about sympathetic resonance is that if someone strikes a body, puts their hand on it to silence it, and then removes their hand, the body will start back up again: the surrounding vibrations from the sympathetic bodies will give their energy back to the original string. And this is how the music continues.

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The Growing Problem

I don’t even know what to say anymore.

This country has been a political shitshow for a while now, and this weekend’s catastrophe was another dollop on the pile. But it’s more than just that. The white nationalist rally that occurred the other day is upsetting, not only because people were killed and injured, but because it’s 2017, and the fact that such an event even happened is despicable and embarrassing.

And there are people actually defending the white nationalists and neo-Nazis involved in the rally. While I am understanding of the fact that people should have freedom of speech, it still sickens me that that is the issue that people want to speak up about – that there are still people in the world that have hatred in their hearts for people not like them, that there are people who look at the color of a person’s skin to determine their value.

The very definition of white nationalism clashes with the ideals that the United States strives for. And yet a good portion of the United States still pushes against those ideals. America still has an underbelly of racism, and every time it rolls over – no matter how much people insist that we have outgrown racism – we see once again that it’s just been covered up.

In 2006, Fox News’ John Gibson did a story about the rising numbers of minorities in the country – the statistics showed that nearly half of the children under five years old in the United States were minorities. Gibson’s response to this was a call to white people: “make more babies.”

What a bizarre speculation. If minority groups really are rising in numbers, what’s the big deal? Why do we need more white people than other races in this country? It can’t possibly stem from a fear of dying out – white people are still well over half of the American population. It’s a power thing: we want to still be able to call minorities “minorities”. Power in numbers. We love that idea. If you’re concerned about whites becoming a minority, you’re basically concerned about whites losing their power over other races.

There is absolutely no reason why whites must remain a majority. In no way are people saying that whites are going to be stamped out of existence. You are just mad because diversity means you are losing control.

BUT YOU ARE NOT IN CONTROL. Your actions prove this. Yes, white people have privilege… We have more available to us, and more opportunities, than we could even imagine. And yet, white people still attack people of color every day… For what? To prove our power? To remind ourselves that we still have one up on the minorities around us?

Listen, people. The color of your skin is the most ridiculous thing to find pride in. Being proud of your skintone doesn’t make any sense – it’s not something you chose, it’s something you were born with. Sure, you can be comfortable in your own skin – and I hope that you are – but you can’t see it as a personal conquest if your skin has less pigment than others’.

With the continuing growth of the Black Lives Matter movement and slogans like “Black and Proud” at the forefront of today’s society, obviously a distinction must be made… because I know a lot of white people will complain that “black people get to be proud of their skin color, but white people can’t.” But here’s the thing: black skin is almost inextricably tied to heritage. Because of this country’s history, most black Americans share the same story: if you go back only a few generations (sometimes even less), you hit slavery. Being “Black and Proud” is saying that you are proud of the struggles that your ancestors have been through, and the way that they lifted themselves out of racist constructs and carried on, creating a new life. It’s speaking out against the burden that history still places on skin color, and the racism and bigotry that entrenches them daily.

White people can be proud of their heritage, too. But their heritage is not “white”. Their heritage is Swedish, or British, or Ukrainian. Your heritage dictates from where you came. You can’t come from “white”.

This is a tricky thing to talk about as a white person, because so often I forget to include myself in the conversation. I catch myself referring to white people as “them”, maybe because subconsciously I don’t want to admit that I could be grouped with people who have these biases. But this is something I have to embrace. I can’t just separate myself from the problem and make everything better; that will only make myself feel better, and do nothing to alleviate the pain being inflicted on the people around me. I have to take responsibility: I have a responsibility to keep people accountable, and give my support where needed; and, I need to understand that there will be times where I won’t see my own bias, and say or do something that is racist, because I do come from a place of privilege.

If I don’t take this responsibility, I will become like those from who I want to separate myself. Racism is ignorance that has been allowed to grow. And the only way to curb it is to be aware and available.

Rocks in the Ocean

I’ve been amazed by the people around me this past week.

Everyone is dealing with something, whether they are haunted by the past or struggling with the present, buried in experiences or emotions or injustices. And yet, each person continues to raise their head above the surface, treading water until they can find the next rock to rest on.

That’s honestly what life is: a series of rocks. Sometimes you don’t see the rock, and slam into it, and your body suffers the repercussions of the dark waters, scuffed and bleeding and weaker than before, leaving you with a fear of the rocks to come. And sometimes you narrowly miss the rock, and hope that those behind you can hear your calls of warning. And sometimes you see a rock coming, and you swim to it, and you have never felt more peace than the moment you reach it, your muscles releasing all their tension as you rest. Sometimes the rock still bites at you as you hold onto it, scraping your skin, but it’s better than drowning. You just have to gather enough energy to make it to the next rock.

5AA51336-E5D6-41B7-AE80-D65CE15D2748-11233-00000C0E4801D5CDIt’s not always the rock (I mean, sometimes it’s the rock – sometimes the rock is jagged and covered in barnacles). Sometimes the murky waters make it worse, or other distractions that steal away your attention. One person’s obstacle is another’s resting place.

But our experience with the rocks cannot be changed by others’ experiences. We can only hope that the rocks will get smaller and smaller, and in time turn to sand under our feet, and the water lapping at our necks will slowly recede until it’s at our ankles.

You, who have just left your last rock, and are treading water: you are brave, you are wonderful, and the swimming will get easier as you go. And you, who have found your next rock: take a moment to rest, and navigate where you are in this ocean and what you’re dealing with. But don’t forget to move forward.