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Scene Selections: Calm down

, , and | Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Mary O'Reilly | The Observer

Reactions to Notre Dame’s introduction of the Calm app as a mental health supplement have been mixed. On one hand, you can’t replace counselors, psychiatrists and professionals with an app on your phone. On the other hand, the school has already decided to give it to students for free, so using it — or even just trying it — is completely risk-free. Scene downloaded the app and pressed play on a few meditations and stories; these are our favorites.


Matthew McConaughey reads “Wonder,” written by Chris Advansun

By Dessi Gomez, Scene Writer

Calm advertises this lovely sleep story by inviting listeners to “join Matthew McConaughey for a dreamy story about the mysteries of the universe, in a heartfelt tale full of magic and wonder.” McConaughey’s voice is already soothing on its own, but add this detailed bedtime story and you’ll have the perfect recipe for drifting off to sleep. I have listened to it twice now, and I still don’t know how the story ends, which is Calm’s goal for its users.

Before starting his narration, McConaughey discusses approaching the small details of life — whether those be nature on Earth or the larger cosmos — with a sense of childlike wonder. This is a perfect reading for the actor who has starred in space stories like “Interstellar” and “Contact.” The galactic imagery and descriptions of natural phenomena add a nice touch.

The story itself centers around Zoe, a young girl who has a little adventure in the night after she is awakened by the sounds of an antique telescope somewhere outside her bedroom. She takes her loyal companion — Snug the Dinosaur — and a blanket to go find the source of this sound. Once she finds that it is her grandpa stargazing, she feels more at ease, and the two have a comforting chat. 


Idris Elba reads “Kingdom of the Sky,” written by Faith Adiele

By Ryan Israel, Scene Editor

I want to talk about British actors who play American characters. Every time a British actor does an interview, often promoting a film or show in which they play an American character, their accent is more noticeable. Recent examples include Daniel Kalluya (British) accepting the Golden Globe for his role in “Judas and the Black Messiah” and Riz Ahmed (British) simultaneously promoting “Sound of Metal” and addressing rumors about his secret wedding. Of course, this is nothing new. These two were preceded by the great Idris Elba.

In “The Wire,” Idris Elba is Stringer Bell. A memorable character, Bell is explicitly linked to his city — Baltimore, MD — and Elba’s ability to capture this relationship is a testament to his skills as an actor. Still, hearing him talk, British accent and all, is always a particular experience. For the Calm app, Elba reads “Kingdom of the Sky,” a story by author Faith Adiele. The tale is a journey through the mountains of Lesotho, a country in Southern Africa, and includes descriptions of both the scenic land and the people who inhabit it. The vivid imagery makes it a prime story for the Calm app, providing specific details for the mind to fixate on. But more than that, it’s Elba’s voice — low, relaxed, British — which makes something to listen to when everything else is a little too loud.


I rated my mood with emojis (not clickbait)

By Aidan O’Malley, Scene Writer

I can’t pretend to be an aficionado of the Calm app. To be frank, I only downloaded it because we were writing Scene Selections about it. And to be doubly frank, I agree with the criticisms leveled against the university’s purchase of the subscription ($15,000 for this?). But that’s all in the past, now — it’s here, so let’s use it.

I don’t like to listen to things when I sleep, and I’m way too jittery for a guided meditation (I am choosing to ignore the irony there). So instead, I poked around for a feature better suited for mindfulness, something I — and every college student — could use a little more of. Eventually, I stumbled upon the daily mood check-in.

The daily mood check-in asks you to rate how you’re feeling every morning with one of 12 emojis. “Grateful” is accompanied by heart eyes; “Angry” by the emoji blowing steam out its nostrils (which is officially titled the “Face with Look of Triumph,” for some reason); and “Bored” by a stone-faced emoji that made me laugh out loud.

Today, I chose “Content,” which is represented by a pleasant-looking emoji with a soft, toothless smile. The app asked me to write a brief note explaining my emotion — I was content because someone emailed me that they enjoyed my Inside Column — and then my emoji was added to my personal mood calendar for the month of March. Today is March 1, so my calendar was looking all but desolate, but I look forward to filling it up in the weeks to come.

A final note: can we appreciate the aesthetic of this app? Moving wallpapers, ambient noise … chef’s kiss.


Harry Styles invites us to dream with him

By Claire Rafford, Assistant Managing Editor

Everyone knows Harry Styles. But did you know that he’s a quadruple threat? You heard me. Styles is a musician, an actor, a fashion icon and now, a bedtime storyteller. That’s right, now that Notre Dame has provided students with access to Calm (Premium!), we can all enjoy the dulcet tones of Styles’ lilting British accent lulling us to sleep, reading an original story by Steve Cleverly and Sanj Sen titled “Dream With Me.” 

Clearly, the good people at Calm know what we want, and Styles’ sultry voice narrating things like, “a fire crackles in a corner just for me and you” hits the target. Even backed by what I can only describe as whimsical elevator music at the speed of a funeral march, this overt intimacy can be distracting at first. Still, once I was able to rid my brain of the “OMG, it’s Harry Styles” mentality, it was much easier to picture the scenes being described — a flowing stream, waves lapping on a gentle beach, a cozy cabin and more. While some phrases jolted me awake — “calming vibes,” for example, bears far too much similarity to something I would actually say about this Calm app feature not to be jarring — I ultimately found myself nodding off towards the end, right before Harry himself could wish me sweet dreams. 

Is this story a little cheesy? Definitely. Did it cure my insomnia? Not fully, no — I’ll still be taking my strawberry Melatonin gummies. Is it a substitute for going to therapy? Absolutely not! But it’s still worth a listen. I’m not ashamed to admit that I wouldn’t turn down a chance to wander through a magical forest or stroll along the beach with Harry Styles right now; it certainly beats procrastinating my finance assignment. “Dream on,” you might be thinking. That’s exactly what I’ll do. 

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About Dessi Gomez

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About Ryan Israel

Ryan is the Former Scene Editor (2020-2021). He is currently washed up. Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryizzy.

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About Aidan O'Malley

Scene Editor, Aidan is.

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About Claire Rafford

Claire is a senior from Tempe, Arizona majoring in English and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy and Business-Economics. She peaked when her team won the Battle of the Books state championship in 2011.

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