Through the Waters


A person's open palm, with dust above it
Photo Credit: Kunj Parekh

When you lose your voice, you think a lot about voices. The voices that echo within you and the voices that used to. The voices that form a sound cave around you and the voices that make a home within you. The voices that become you and the voices you become.

I didn't think it would go so completely. It had shaken and wavered and gone in and out while I taught yesterday. Then I woke up this morning and found myself reduced to a whisper. I wasn't too reflective about it, at first. I had been sick for the past few days, and this was the natural outgrowth of that, just a temporary hoarseness, right? I could shrug and laugh about it, drink some tea, and go through the motions of my morning. That is, of course, until something screeched me to an inner halt on my drive to work. I was listening to a podcast while I drove, and a line from the talk struck me like unwelcome lightning: "Have you lost your voice and simply become a part of the noise?" In an instant, I was all ears.

It's surprisingly easy to become a part of the noise. Listen to the noise enough, unchecked enough by your inner filter, and enough noise pollution will pass through without detection. Assumptions are contagious. Even in ways that began well-intentioned, we can settle into patterns of life that betray our better angels or lead us into a smallness that belies the greatness in each of us. It's not something to prevent or feel badly about; it's something to notice as it passes from you, like looking backward when you're on a boat and watching its wake. Have an eye for how you move the waters. Let that inform your choices for the rudder.

Thankfully, albeit painfully, this life is replete with severe mercies--the unwanted conflicts, trials, losses, and tragedies we hope we don't experience and sometimes actively pray against. They shake the noise off of us. It's like shedding layers of caked-on dust. In the process, we usually cling to our dust, thinking that it is a part of us that we can't live without because it somehow feels like life. Think about it: this would be the equivalent of a snake clinging to layers of dead skin rather than shedding them. We tend to focus more on the dead skin we're losing rather than the new, living scales that are aching to grow in.

I don't believe the point is to avoid or exit from the noise. I believe the point is to attune our ear enough in order to vocalize, even from the very eye of that storming noise. Have you ever known someone with perfect pitch? It's like they can hear aspects of sound that you can't detect. Not being able to talk for these few days has quieted me. It's underscored the choice of what to say and what not to say. Which pebbles to toss into the echoing canyon. Which pebbles to skip into the sea of silence. My students were understanding in class today. They listened to the still, small whisper I had regrettably become.

I may be without speech, but I'm not bereft of something to say. Losing my speech has inspired me to find my voice. 

Welcome to my blog. 

Inspiration: "The Artisan Soul: Voice - Who Told You You Were Naked?" by Erwin McManus

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