Note: Perhaps a bit of an ironic message for my blog, but this piece appeared recently in Neighbors of Batavia magazine
I received an email from a friend I’ll refer to as Jim. I struggle to respond with empathy, kindness and wisdom.
I have, for a number of years, taken voice lessons. I have sung publicly once or twice, but every time I hear the results I rediscover I am never going to sound like—or resemble—Josh Groban. It is said we should “dance like no one is watching, and sing like no one is listening.” I can sing like no one is listening…but only if no one is listening. In spite of my coach’s kind invitations, I have no interest in public vocal performance. Nonetheless, I persist with my lessons…and keep whatever musical voice I might have, locked in the studio.
So why expend the time and money for lessons, if I am never going to publicly share my voice? For me, learning to sing is a metaphor for finding my larger Voice in this world. Each of us, by virtue of our singular life experience, can, if we look deeply within, bring forth unique knowledge, profound wisdom or superb art that make life for the rest of us more exquisite. It is this expression of who I am at the deepest part of my being that I refer to as my Voice.
It is my desire to hear the Voices of others that has me so conflicted over Jim’s email. His message contained a gentle invitation to visit his blog. So I did. The posts were very nice…and numerous: twelve posts and more than 2000 words in the previous week. And, as many of his posts are quotes from others, it is nearly impossible to discern his Voice; I am left to try and reconstruct it by assembling the pieces of a puzzle composed of the wisdom of others.
For most of us—even Josh Groban, if you read his story—listening for that Voice, which is often hushed and deeply hidden, and finding its expression can be an elusive, often painful journey. I recently spent time with a young man with a chronic ailment that will make his life particularly challenging. And yet, I fully believe this challenge can be the key to unlock a Voice he has yet to find. Once unlocked, I expect to hear its magnificent tones and perfect pitch.
So in my struggle to find a kind and gentle response to Jim’s request, here is the best I can offer. While I do a fair amount of writing, I spend far more of my waking hours immersed in words written by teachers I hope will allow me to see the world anew by offering an insight or bit of wisdom. But with nearly 7 billion people on the planet, how do I decide with whom to share those precious few moments? Thousands of books and millions of blog postings flood the landscape each and every day and scream for my attention. As I climb this mountain of words, how do I know where to stop and dwell? I’m still learning, but one thing I believe: I will reserve as much of my life as I can for others’ words if they flow fully from their Voice—from their deep experience of life and the ensuing wisdom that aches to leak from their hearts. Everyone has a Voice to share, but the words it struggles to find seldom arrive in torrents. On the rare occasion I find words, they arrive as an elusive trickle that is difficult to hear.
And while I still resist vocal performances, I would consider a performance using my Voice. If you have read this far, you just experienced a recital.