Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Silence and Ghosts

It's quiet. I just realized that it's quiet.

It's mid-afternoon on the first day of Ramadan. [This post was written yesterday.]

We're in the country here on the west side of the river, among farms and also"villas" for foreigners. So the noise level is nothing like the loudness of Luxor, on the east side.

Farming is quiet here, because the farmers don't use machinery. Occasionally you see an antiquated tractor. I suppose farmers rent these as needed. But mostly farming is what it has been for thousands of years—backbreaking time-consuming labor.

But now I'm missing the background hum of voices. And animal noise. Bleating goats. Braying donkeys. Roosters proclaiming their authority. And the friendly horns of motorbikes and minibuses, from the road that parallels the canal, across the field from my apartment.

I opened the door to let the dog out, and heard the voices of neighbor children playing. And then there was the mid-afternoon call to prayer. And I let the dog back in, and the children's voices were silent again.

I suppose I should now talk about how, in our culture, we're uncomfortable with silence. And so on. Which is true, I guess.

But here, the silence is haunted.

When I first moved into this apartment, I was aware of rubbing elbows with ghosts. A vast crowd of them. The people that lived and worked here, millennia ago.

The Pharaoh's palace was here, in the 18th dynasty, in an adjoining village. And so the west bank of the Nile was highly-populated and very busy, while the east bank was more rural. The opposite of the modern situation, and hard to imagine.

This afternoon, in the silence, the ghosts begin to crowd the edge of my consciousness. I saw one once, at night, from my bedroom, standing in the doorway. He was in the dark of the hall, so I couldn't really see him. But I knew he was there, watching, looking. Not in a threatening way. Just wondering what I was doing there, in his space, in his time, and with such unusual clothes and such a strange haircut.

This is what ghosts are, I think. (I'm not talking about malevolent entities, which are different.) They are the electromagnetic signature of people of another time. Their time and our time somehow intersect, and we have an anomalous situation.

Now that I've written my post, I think I'll turn on the TV and let noise and electronics dispel the ghostly silence.

For more on intersecting warps of time, read Louis Sachar's book Holes. Brilliant.

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