Andrew Graystone

4 December 2016


One of my abiding memories of my February in Vaughan Park is the cicadas. How could you…how could anyone find head-space in the middle of this constant noise? Three years on my head has its own internal cicadas, and you have taught me to listen to God in the noise as well as the silence.

Last year I was diagnosed with a tumour affecting the balance centre of my left ear. It gives me no symptoms at the moment, except that it presses on the nerves that control my hearing. As a result I have a constant noise in my head, reminding me of the cicadas of Vaughan Park. It’s not loud, but it’s always there. Bach’s piano sonatas are now accompanied by a low drone, like a distant hoover. Every word I write, I write onto paper that already has a covering of random marks. Even my silent prayers are accompanied by a humming chorus.

It’s strange to think that the signals that create this noise don’t relate to anything in the real world outside my head. I’m not hearing anything except the interference on the line between ear and brain. This is a noise that has no value. It isn’t useful. It doesn’t offer information or remind me of danger or reassure me that someone is present. I can’t share it with you. It is the noise of my own soul.

There are only two ways this noise will stop. I could treat my tumour with surgery. The likelihood is that if and when I do this, the sounds will end, and so will my hearing. I have the choice of constant background noise or perpetual silence. For today I choose noise.

The other way it will end is with my death. One day my whole body will fall silent as I begin to explore new layers of sense that none of us can yet imagine. For today I choose life.

I no longer have the option to choose silence – to stand in a field of virgin snow listening to nothing, or lie very still and hold my breath and experiment with the absence of sound. So instead I choose to live in a world of noise. I notice the sound of passing cars and their drivers, raindrops falling on the window ledge, the reassuring hum of my computer. And I notice moment by moment the sounds of my own flawed internal circuitry, reminding me that I am alive again today – reminding me to choose life.

©Andrew Graystone

Image Raindrops on window, Pixabay

Andrew is a writer, radio producer and broadcaster. He lives in Manchester in the North of England and was a Scholar at Vaughan Park in 2012.