Tuesday, January 19, 2021



Although less of a fanatic than I used to be, I'm still an audiophile. Back in the day, I loved comparing loudspeakers and discussing obscure concepts like stereo separation and imaging. One of the parameters I used to geek over when studying specifications of an audio device was the signal-to-noise ratio, or S/N. The higher the value, the better, i.e. the signal is the music you want to hear and noise is any extraneous noise generated intrinsically by the system itself.

Today is the inauguration of the Biden-Harris administration, and last night it struck me that Joe Biden is starting off with a high S/N, and the way he's doing that is by decreasing the denominator--the N.  As he stood with Jill Biden at one side of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool with Kamala Harris and the Second Gentleman-to-be on the other, I heard something we've become unaccustomed to for a while: silence.  

                            Harrises and Bidens at Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool (Getty Images)

For one surprise moment, I thought, "Isn't he going to say anything?" It was then that the silence swept over me and the reply came right back: "He doesn't need to." This stunning image with four hundred glowing lamps to represent the 400,000 we have lost to the pandemic, was all we needed. It spoke volumes, and Biden was there to say, "Someone has heard you now. We acknowledge you, and we say we are sorry."

Perhaps without our realizing it, we have had so much clamor and cacophony in our heads, we've forgotten what a quiet mind is. The 2020 we endured was a clash of so many factors that came together in a crescendo of strife, fury, tragedy and lots and lots of noise. 

Silence and quiet are related but not identical. Silence is the absence of sound. Quiet is a state of mind regardless of presence or absence of sound. Now, let's get back to reacquainting ourselves with either, or both. One of my favorites: rain.


  1. What a wonderful, insightful post! Thank you. May S/N --> ∞.

  2. I think you're 100% right. We are used to "clatter" these days and frenetic activity. Often achieving nothing.

  3. Watching them arrive and go the Lincoln Memorial last night, then the inauguration this morning, both Sharon and I felt our chests relaxing, like a Gordian Knot was being undone. So lovely.

  4. Thank you, Kwei. This is beautiful. The first statement of any sort that can be so described coming from the Executive Branch since President Obama stepped down.

    “Until now we have mourned alone. Now we can mourn together.” Kamala Harris.

  5. I had the same reaction as you watching the two couples standing quietly/silently by the Reflecting Pool. But it took your brilliant post to put what I saw and felt into words. Thanks, Kwei.

  6. It deserves the entire Hallelujah chorus from the Messiah. A sense of calmness prevails, not freneticness. A sense that the pandemic will be handled, not allowed to run rampant, that programs and solutions will be found and implemented.