Monday, September 05, 2005

the things they listened to

i'm finally getting around to reading tim o'brien's timeless collection of stories about the vietnam war, the things they carried and am finding it precisely relevant to present day realities - both in warzones overseas and right here in the usa - a different sort of warzone.

in the chapter titled 'how to tell a true war story' there's a story related about a group of six men who are sent into the mountains basically to listen for enemy activity. they spend a week in silence, listening, and share a near-hallucinatory aural experience including party music, and a chamber choir, and a barbershop quartet, and the fog rolling in. all of these sounds [whether they existed or not] talk and beckon to the soldiers endlessly. eventually the sounds collectively invite the soldiers to call in an attack, which arrives swiftly and wipes the area out. completely. [whether the story is true or not.]

the soldier telling this story then waits for the soldier he's told the story to, (presumably the author of the book) to ask about the moral. the moral of the story.

"all right," i said. "what's the moral?"
"forget it."
"no, go ahead."

for a long while he was quiet, looking away, and the silence kept stretching out until it was almost embarrassing. then he shrugged me a stare that lasted all day.

"hear that quiet, man?" he said. "that quiet - just listen. there's your moral."

i'm not really sure why i've posted this. [morals. listening. silence. all of it. why not?] but it may be a good time to read the book, if you haven't yet.