It was payday, and my son, home from college for the weekend could smell cash. Having just purchased the latest Apple laptop with borrowed funds, he was on a mission to earn money to pay for his new computer. He had driven home from Norman to help celebrate his Mom’s 50th birthday and had called me the day before. “Dad, can I come home a day early and work friday to earn a little spending money?” On friday morning, standing in the hallway of my office with my bookkeeper Briana, Brandon breezed past from the lobby to the conference room, and we caught a quick glimpse of the Oklahoma sophomore Meteorology student. Briana remarked, “Who was that?” “My Son,” I said. She quickly replied, “Why is his hair sticking up?” My reply was, “That’s just the style now…no style at all…just out there.” And indeed he looked like Dennis the Menace after walking through the car wash hurricane dryer.
Unfortunately for my son, he wasn’t wearing the latest technological wonder, advertised on the History Channel. It’s called Micro-Plus, a hearing device for those seeking the supernatural hearing of Batman. Here are just a few wonderful aspects of this magical device (and I’m not a paid spokesman). It will amplify sounds allowing you to eavesdrop on words spoken within a one hundred foot radius (Brandon could have the benefit of hearing the comment about his hair thus redeeming his day…or ruining it?). The wondrous device will also enable you to, “Hear things you’ve never heard before.” In addition, you will be able to answer these universally profound questions: “Have you ever wished you had sonic hearing?” and “Would you like to never miss another sound?”
These are great questions and bring to mind George Eliot in her book, Middlemarch. “That element of human tragedy which lies in the very fact of frequency, has not yet wrought itself into the coarse emotion of mankind; and perhaps our frames could hardly bear much of it. If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.” – George Eliot, Middlemarch
Hmmm…$19.95 to hear the grass grow and the roar of a squirrel’s heart seems like a great deal, but I’m going to defer to the wisdom of George Eliot and keep my $19.95. I believe George Eliot is correct. Our capacity to receive and process the thoughts of the world around us…anger, strife, joy, loneliness, happiness, envy, hate, lust, despair, love…is finite and limited to our closest family and friends and we each reach a point of saturation that for each of us reflects our own need for personal peace, solitude and…emotional survival.
In the Gospel of Mark Chapter 4, Jesus says, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” I assume the wonder hearing devices won’t buy you virtuous ears. Perhaps Eliot has opened my ears to a new way of understanding that admonition. We all have filters and cups that overflow with tragedy and pain…even passion and triumph. However, our human souls can only manage so much emotion, or at least mine anyway. And so those folks who do engage with finely tuned ears into the adjacent broadcast that is human tragedy, do so aided by the unfathomable Divine spark that transcends Darwin’s evolution of the strongest and mightiest. The perpetuation of our neighbors interests, the sharing of their pain and hurt, attending funerals and hugging through the tears, loving those who are unlovable, giving more than just a 20% tip at a restaurant…adding a certain element of eye contact and meaningful words to those who serve us…all these are unexplainable to me by theories of species perpetuation. Perhaps that’s the reason religion lasts millenia plus and governments and cultures only a few centuries.
We have a chocolate lab named Abby, and her whole world revolves around the turning of the back door hardware, the tell-tale sound of her human friends joining her backyard world. If I stand at the back door, she will see me standing there, her head will tilt slightly, about ten degrees, and standing there with her brown head cocked and ears perked up, she waits for the metallic turning of the door knob tumblers signaling interaction of the people she loves into her world that has been lonely all night and sometimes all day. We don’t really need those fancy hearing devices for $19.95. Most of us just need the courage to cock our head slightly to one side and listen for those people turning the door knob, opening the doors into our places…our church…our neighborhood…our world. It happens everyday, all the time.
I admire those who enjoin the battle of frequency in human tragedy…missionaries, pastors, nurses, counselors, police officers, teachers, doctors…all hear a disproportionate roar that would exceed the coarse human emotion most of us possess and their frames bear up more sturdily than those of us with feet of clay. God bless those good folk who hear the roar of the grass growing and the frantic beating hearts of many. Most of us live blissfully quiet lives on the calmer side of the roar.