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The Bells are Ringing?

by Dr David, Editor / Publisher

The bells have stopped, the hourly pre-recorded chimes, to be precise. These over-amplified, tinny melodies were broadcast at the top of every hour from 9am to 9pm from the low quality public address speakers on top of the church here in Colonia San Antonio.

Each hour featured a lengthy melody, some of which were repeated, as if one 30-second playing of the already painfully slow tune was just not enough. At 11:00am (mas o menos), I could march 90 seconds from my front door to the plaza in front of the church accompanied all the way by the Theme to the Titanic and still have some left over.

Years ago I told my daughter that I thought hell had a special place for people who set off fireworks, aerial quarter sticks of dynamite, methodically, every five minutes starting at 5:00am. She mentioned that to her boyfriend, whose family (Zavala) has been in San Miguel for 150 years. He retorted, "If he doesn't like it, then he can go back to wherever he came from."

Permanent Resident that I am, I am still sensitive to the fact that I am a visitor here in Mexico. I like to say that I am becoming more Mexican, but I am still very gringo. I am aware that my sensibilities are different from your average Mexican. Take my sense of hearing, for example.

Right behind the church , I see the kids they send up into the bell tower to grasp the short rope hanging from the clapper of an actual bell and ferociously bang it back and forth, as fast as they can, the bell thundering immediately above their head for 60 seconds. The music is so loud that I plug my ears as the truck approaches during the Los Locos parade, even thought all the speakers are pointed behind. As the truck passes I see the kids, their legs dangling off the back of the flatbed, seated for hours one foot in front of that bank of speakers, all turned up to max. How do you say "guaranteed hearing loss" in Spanish?

A month before Christmas they changed the church's recorded chimes for certain hours, substituting an assortment of seasonal favorites, including a grossly inaccurate version of "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas." I was afraid that I would be listening to those Yuletide favorites well into April, but, no, someone else is actually paying attention. As of a week ago the recorded bells have stopped, well most of them. Now the recordings only play at 8:00am, 6:00pm and sometimes noon.

Well, that's not true. The simple sounding of the bells, also a recording, continues: two strokes at quarter past, four at half past, six at quarter to, eight plus those for the hour on the hour.

The clock on the church has been stopped at 4:20 for the last few days. This morning, while I was doing my yoga on the roof, things went haywire. These simple chimes kept sounding alternately 11 o'clock and 1 o'clock. I thought, "Well, this is hellish," but after four or five repetitions it stopped. I thought they might be repairing the clock, but when I rode past later in the morning it was still stuck at 4:20.

On being presented the gift of a beautiful teacup, the Buddhist master held it up before a gathering of his disciples and said, "For me this cup is already broken." I know that the recorded chimes will return in force. I know that it could be and might get worse. They might start the recordings before 8:00am or continue them after 9:00pm. They might start broadcasting music at half-past the hour.

One day the recorded chimes will return. One day I will again hear the Theme to the Titanic at 11:00am, or some other hour. But right now, like the master using the teacup before it broke, I am enjoying the relative quiet.

Speaking of relative quiet and Los Locos, the workers renovating the house ten feet across the narrow alley from mine, have this small cube of plastic that blares music at an impressive volume, especially given its size. Just this morning, instead of their usual ranchero, they had it tuned to those frenetic sounds that accompany the Los Locos parade. After suffering audio assault for an hour or so and almost going crazy myself (they don't call it "Los Locos" for nothing), I asked a young man lounging in the doorway to change it back to the "smoother" ranchero. One half hour later someone did.

"I want to sing a hymn in praise of looking at the glass half empty and do want to emphasize to you the wisdom and, indeed, the beauty of thinking of life as an essentially deeply troubled and compromised affair. We're currently living in troubled times and many of us respond to these troubled time with a feeling of injured self pity, as though something that was supposed to have gone right has gone wrong. I would like to reverse the equation; nothing was entirely supposed to go right and so nothing has particularly gone wrong. We have simply returned to a state of crisis, which is the norm in human history." - Alain Botton

Pessimism has its virtues. When the basic fact of human life is that (almost) everything turns to dust, it's pragmatic. Reasonable expectations make you happier with what you've got (which is the definition of "conservative") and they make it easier to make progress towards bettering things (which is the definition of "progressive.")

Tell that to the kids protesting for a perfect world. The fact that the music you listen to was composed by white men might make you a micro-racist and a micro-sexist, but that is a much smaller dragon to slay than the macro-racism and macro-sexism that existed when we were kids protesting for a better world.


Dr David is looking for authors to contribute to San Miguel Sunday. He is also looking for people who want to add more meaning to their lives. See his new website below.

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