Hearing the Music

Hearing the Music

The story goes about a man born deaf who could never comprehend that on certain occasions when he went out to dinner, men and women would rise to their feet, grab hold of one another and do these weird bodily gyrations for a few minutes. Then, they would return to their chairs, only to go through the same gyrations a few minutes later. It was only after surgery had given him his capacity to hear sounds that he caught on. It all made sense, once he heard the music.

Not all of us get to experience such a dramatic intervention in our lives as the deaf man did, but most of us do experience what I’d call major epiphanies in our journey through life, moments which are so personally powerful that they can change the way we think about our life.

A young man gets so stoned out of his head that he ends up in the ER not even knowing how he got there. In a moment, his wasted life flashes before him. He “gets” where his choices are leading him. He hears the music. The experience shakes him to the core and from that moment he swears off drugs and turns his life around.

A successful career woman with her penthouse apartment and a Lamborghini in the garage, witnesses the death of a friend and suddenly hears the music, understands that all her possessions mean little and puts her money into establishing a school for impoverished young women in Bangladesh.

A middle-aged man cheats on his wife. On the brink of filing for divorce, he hears the music, realizes for the first time that he is about to lose the woman who has been his one best friend all his life. He begs forgiveness, returns to his wife as a much better husband than he has ever been before.

These are not unusual examples. They happen every day. They are the moments of truth that can turn a hardened criminal into a law-abiding citizen, a lifetime smoker into a non-smoker. Sometimes these flashes of insight come to us in the most innocent of ways. A little girl puts her tiny hand in ours and trusts us to take care of her. We, who have been totally wrapped up in ourselves, respond. At other times, our moments of truth can come to us less subtly, through a kick in the pants. Paul of Tarsus needed to get knocked off his horse to learn that he was on the wrong track.

I’m convinced that there are moments in all our lives when our music is played. Whether the musician is our conscience, mother earth, or God in heaven, someone plays music that is meant for our ears alone. The melody appeals to what is most noble in us. We recognize it immediately. Yes, this is the song we are meant to sing. This is who we are. Sadly, we can shut our ears to the melody and pretend we are deaf. Then, we miss our chance to become the person we were meant to be.

Ah, but if we DO open our ears to hear the music, a path opens up; we understand what seemed so puzzling before. Call it inspiration or enlightenment or grace, we hear the music. When those magic moments happen to us, hey, it’s time to put on our dancing shoes and boogie. Our lives may depend upon it.

Listening to the Sound of Silence

Listening to the Sound of silence

Every time I get into my car, I fall into the same dumb trap. I turn on the radio. Sometimes, I’ll get smart and listen to a tape or a CD but usually I’ll tune in to music on the radio or to a talk show. In either case, I’ve let my brain be invaded by sounds coming from outside. I don’t think I am unusual in this regard. We have allowed our minds to be inundated by the floodwaters of NOISE.

What’s that about? Why is it that the only noise we can’t seem to deal with is the sound of silence? I know people who turn their television set on the minute they step into their house and leave it on until they go to bed at night. They don’t necessarily listen to the mindless chatter emanating from the tube. Often, they are hardly aware that the set is even on. The TV is like a security blanket. As long as their television is blaring, they somehow feel less alone.

I’m not that bad, I say to myself. I don’t have the tube on ALL of the time. Yea, but the tube is still a significant presence in my life. Like most males, I find myself hopelessly addicted to the sport of channel surfing. Good grief! Is there anything more pathetic than an intelligent man, eyes glazed over, snapping the remote with the speed of light?

For centuries human kind lived in a world free of radios, TV, car traffic, telephones, loud music. We heard only the sounds of earth, human voices, the singing of birds, the bleating of sheep, the primitive sounds of drums and music, sounds not “enhanced” (if that’s the word) by modern technology.

Well, those days are long gone. Like it or not, our sense of hearing is under siege. The more important question is how can we avoid being so distracted by the sounds outside of us that we lose touch with our own souls. Make no mistake. That constant hum of television or radio or cell phone conversations can cushion us for a time from life’s troubles, but at what a cost?

Stressed out by your kid’s behavior? Well, you can deal with it after you’ve watched the latest segment of Desperate Housewives. Feeling lonesome? You could get out and do some volunteer work or see a counselor. But it’s easier to escape to one of the Survivor episodes on television. Have some quiet time while you’re commuting to work? You could use the time to figure out some actions you might take to improve your relationship with your spouse or you can listen to the diatribe of a talk show host.

Much of the noise that surrounds us is simply a part of modern life. We can’t avoid it.

Even if we wanted to, we can’t return to a pace of life that existed a century or so back in time. But I do think we would profit by at least making friends with the stillness. We don’t have to bombard ourselves with noise every waking moment do we?

We live in a more complex world than our parents or grandparents did. Sometimes, the last thing we want to do is face that complexity. The tendency is to turn up the music or the television, but that is counter productive in the long run. What we need is to give ourselves the gift of some quiet time every day so we don’t forget who we are and why we are living. There are times in life when the only sound that will really help is the sound of silence.