Monday, May 9, 2011


This lyric resonates with me like the gong at the end of “Bohemian Rhapsody”.  Not because it’s particularly profound or brimming with ambiguous genius.  I think this song’s wordsmith had more insight into the human condition than many people I know.  Like him, I’m amazed at how much verbage permeates the atmosphere, and how little actually gets processed - by anybody.  
The opening questions, “Do you hear me, do you care?” aptly summarize the song’s overall theme, pervade the entire tune, and are both sadly answered with an unmistakable“no”.   Dale Bozzio’s quirky, trendy (and sometimes squeaky) alto alternates between playful frolic and poignant reality, like a cyborg with a bounce.  Her voice marries whim with cynicism, animation with automation.  It’s what makes the awful truth go down easier.  When she sings
My lips are moving and the sound`s coming out
The words are audible but I have my doubts
That you realize what has been said
she acknowledges that even though there is a noise, it doesn’t mean there is a sound.  Just because a message has been sent doesn’t guarantee that it’s been received.  This notion is summed up at the end of the first verse:  
It`s like the feeling at the end of the page
When you realize 
You don`t know what you just read
How many times do you have to read something before it truly sinks in?  It’s the same thing with true communication.  We all know how frustrating it is to try to converse with someone who is merely waiting for you to stop talking so she can get her two cents in.  The best conversationalists, it is said, are those that talk to you about yourself, and then wait for your reply.  Stephen Covey advises us to “seek first to understand, and THEN be understood.”  No wonder Bozzio broods away:
What are words for when no one listens anymore
What are words for when no one listens
There`s no use talking at all...
I might as well go up and talk to a wall
Cause all the words are having no effect at all
The art of listening is a lost art, indeed.  As a recovering psych major, the one takeaway that became a staple in my counseling model was the virtue of active listening.  Arguably, the best thing you can do for a distraught individual is to simply keep your mouth shut and let him vent.  No advice.  No quick fix or solutions.  You essentially repeat and interpret what the client says for clarity’s sake (referred to as “mirroring”).  More often than not, the person correctly draws her own conclusion simply by hearing herself speak.  As a facilitator, you don’t cause the “a-ha” moment, you’re just there when it happens.  Voila!  Problem solved.  And all you did was pay attention.   
Pursue it any further 
And another thing you`ll find
Not only are they deaf and dumb
They could be going blind
No one notices.  I think I`ll dye my hair blue
A penetrating insight here.  Once you stop listening, your other senses follow domino-like suit.  Pretty soon you become numb and de-sensitized to the point that practically nothing impresses you or tickles your fancy.  No wonder hordes of our contemporaries cut, pierce, tattoo, and otherwise italicize themselves in a futile effort to gain notoriety, or, at least, avoid being ignored.  Self-expression?  Or a silent plea to the oblivious masses. “Look at me!”  Picture Stanley Kowalski yelling THAT in the rain instead of “Stella!”  
Someone answer me before I pull out the plug
The singer resigns herself to drastic measures on this last line.  Either validate my cry or I bail.  From people, life, or both.  Wow.  I mean, think about this:  pulling out the plug could imply that her life, as is, languishes in a vegetative state, that she is existing on a figurative respirator.  Her miracle could easily be manifested if some Horton would lend her an ear and just accede her actuality.  After all, a person’s a person, no matter how small.

The problem lies not in the volume of available verbosity out there.  You see, words are like inflated dollars - the more that are circulated, the less value they hold.  If we would only learn to, as the Hee Haw girls used to admonish, listen close the first time, the singer of “Words” would not have to waste so much time trying to get noticed.  As followers of Christ, we would be wise to take that first meltdown seriously, and keep an eye out for the silent and deep melancholies among us.  Who knows what future tragedy we may fend off, and what lives we may save if we decide to care enough to not only hear, but to care, and to actively listen.  
To understand is better than to be understood.  Sometimes we have to put our own neuroses on hold so someone who hurts a little more can catch a break.  Not to worry - the One who causes everything to work out for our good and His glory will do just that, nothing less.  
Listen actively to someone today.  Mind not that you’re being talked over and your own feelings are disregarded at the time - the cycle is true, and the right person will zero in on you in due season.  May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart bring glory to the Master.  And may I minister grace and help to the one whose words desperately need a listening ear.         

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Some people like you.  Some people don’t.  
Then there’s everyone else.  
Some people like your personality, the way you make them feel when you’re around them.  Some people just get you - you gel with certain individuals either immediately or over the time needed to establish trust.  You feel comfortable around them - you don’t measure every word or behavior, you express yourself in an environment that is perpetually safe and accepting.  
Some people don’t like the way you do certain things, or, possibly, the manner in which you generally carry or handle yourself.  Then there are those who just plain don’t like, uh, YOU.  They don’t like your looks, they don’t like your idiosyncrasies, and they personally find your presence, by and large, less than attractive.  One young man once told me he didn’t like me because I looked like the guy his former girlfriend ended up marrying.  For whatever preposterous reason someone dreams up, or simply decides to give, your stock has plummeted, no matter what you do or say.  
Then there’s everyone else.  Unknown to you.  Faces in the crowd.  Shadows.  Phone book listings.  Inconsequential exchanges.  Random, typical, run-of-the-mill, Navin Johnsons.  Drivers you flash your lights for to warn them of a stealth cop.  Fellow riders on a hospital elevator for a floor or two.  The nameless middle-aged lady who lets you use her bonus card at the grocery store.  Youngsters who ride the roller coaster car in front of you at an amusement park.  People who don’t currently figure into your life significantly, nor you, theirs.        
This classic rock staple (I actually heard it today while cleaning my car), initiated by Rod Argent’s signature half-step Hammond trill,  accentuates the virtue of moving forward with conviction regardless of the negative or indifferent aura that certain personalities throw off.  An elementary cadence in D brings out that ponderous, kingly vibe - kind of a “make-way-for-me” attitude.  Unison voices converge on the chorus to make this simple tune an anthem of inspiration for anyone who needs a lift.  Just look at the second verse:    
And if they stare
Just let them burn their eyes on your moving
And if they shout
Don’t let it change a thing that you’re doing
Hold your head up, hold your head up
Hold your head up, hold your head high

I think too many of us forego success and progress in our personal, professional, and spiritual lives because we’re so concerned about what other people think.  We’re afraid of repercussions from those who don’t like us, believing that we can win them over if we just try hard enough not to rattle their cages anymore.  We fear the nameless figures - they need to see us at our best before we reveal our real selves.   Heck, we even let loved ones talk us out of the big time because we respect their opinions so much.  After all, they’re “looking out for us” - we would do well to heed the caring, compassionate counsel of those closest to us.
Dr. Daniel Amen subscribes to the 18/40/60 Rule.  He maintains that when you’re eighteen, you care about what everyone thinks of you.  When you’re forty, you don’t care about what everyone thinks of you.  But when you’re sixty, you realize that no one has been thinking of you at all!  Most people have enough issues of their own to care a fig about yours.  Gee, why not come to that conclusion now!  
It’s time to obey The Voice.  The Voice trumps that of the antagonist.  The Samballats and Tobiahs that occasionally but invariably pop up on the scene.  The Voice is superior to the capricious spouts of the arbitrary loudmouth - you know, those cyber-cowards who trash-talk behind a cleverly concocted email address.  The Voice blows away the well-meaning, but dangerous calls for common sense, civility, and safety.  Family and friends who don’t want to see you get hurt, look bad, or make a darn fool out of yourself.
The Voice is not necessarily one of reason.  At least not humanly speaking.  But it’s the right One to listen to.  “Your own ears will hear him.  Right behind you [The Voice] will say, ‘This is the way you should go,‘ whether to the right or to the left.”  
The prophet Isaiah knew his Master’s Voice.  He marched to the cadence of the Ultimate Drum Major.  Good thing.  His words make a lot of sense 2500 years after he wrote them down.  
If you’ve heard The Voice, march on.  Let His cadence thunder in your heart and in your spirit.  Hold your head up and high.  You’ve got nothing to lose but a little pride and a little fear.  Two things that are definitely worth losing.   

Saturday, January 29, 2011


I had a few spare minutes to myself on a pleasant Sunday evening in April (yes, miracles DO happen) so, on a lark, I took a walk down the Old Town Mall here in Winchester.  I thought I’d bring my iPod and look like a hip thinker amongst fellow strollers who couldn’t have cared less about what I looked like.
After soaking up some small town ambience, I sat down on a bench near the courthouse and dialed up a 70s favorite of mine, “Living in the Past” by Jethro Tull.  Mired in the haunting beauty of Ian Anderson’s flute against a Latin-tinged 5/4 pulse were these lyrics:
Once I used to join in
Every boy and girl was my friend
Now, there`s revolution
But they don`t know
What they`re fighting
Let us close our eyes
Outside their lives
Go on much faster
Oh, we won`t give in
We`ll keep living in the past
That first stanza encapsulated a fundamental flaw we face as we age.  We grow older, but not necessarily wiser.  Wisdom born of pain isn’t my path of choice as it pertains to gaining smarts.  But what happened to taking risks?  What happened to trust and innocence?  We play it too safe these days, to the detriment of our sense of personal significance.  Growing older, but not, well, growing.  Too scared to learn the hard way one more time.  We hide in the supposed truth of “if I knew then what I know now”, forgetting the fact that we educated ourselves by taking chances, and occasionally blowing it sky-high.  But, dag, did we learn!  
Just moments before, my eye had caught sight of a disheveled middle-aged man with a winter hat and excessively clad for the weather – smoking, contemplative, perhaps sad.  My first instinct was to casually approach him and possibly engage him in a conversation that would eventually direct our dialog to Christ.  Twenty years ago (when I was, I guess, young and foolish), that would have been a no-brainer – the guy would have heard the name of Jesus, whether or not the rest of our short discussion involved Him or not.  Suddenly, “safety first” kicked in – suddenly, “what ifs” abounded like pigeons around discarded sandwich scraps.  He’ll get turned off if I drag religion into it.  He could be one of those weirdoes we see on cable news.  Maybe he’ll pull a knife on me, or spray me with mace.  Completely unfounded fears, disguised as common sense or street savvy.  
Anderson pines, “Now there’s revolution, but they don’t know what they’re fighting.”  Forty-somethings like me spend more time defending our turf than discovering new promised lands.  Lost people aren’t worth the bother – after all, I could get hurt.  May the only struggle I encounter be the ongoing effort to preserve whatever lifetime I have left.