I teach singing and speaking. I support people to have their voice in this life. There are no auditions or requirements to be in my studio. If you have a voice you’re welcome. Sometimes students have told me they wondered why another student they thought sounded “bad” was even trying. A few weeks, months, or years later, they heard that person singing and were in awe of the transformation.
Perhaps the gift that matters most in voice teachers is they don’t need weeks, months, or years to hear the beauty in a voice. They perceive it in the first sound a student makes. And perhaps the gift that matters most in human beings is the ability to perceive the radiance in others, to hear some note of goodness even when behavior is insane or inhumane.
Witnessing that radiance is not an automatic grace for me. I have a fierce judge archetype in the structure of my personality, and when I hear racism, bigotry or hatred of any kind being expressed I’m far more likely to feel defensive or critical. It’s a gritty practice to listen for the deeper truths that people believe in. I credit any success I might have to the sensitivity and depth the art of singing asks of us.
As we learn to hear the multiple frequencies in a voice, we can discern all kinds of information about a person’s state of being and intentions. I frequently give the example of the way people say “Hello” when answering the phone. We immediately get a sense of whether they feel happy and engaging, hurried and intense, or any other states of being they might be in.
I think that “singer’s sense” is the reason I wasn’t afraid when a man tried to mug me. I say he tried because I had no money. I was out for a walk and had only my apartment key on me. As he searched my pockets I apologized for having nothing to give him and asked if he’d like to come wait outside my building so I could go upstairs and get some money for him. He told me to get the f**k out of there. “Okay,” I said, “God bless you.” Even though his language was gruff it didn’t occur to me he might actually hurt me. No such intention was in his voice.
Even so, a young man outside the underpass convinced me to tell the police what had happened, and they took me to the precinct to look at mug shots. There were several fat binders crowded with photos. After a while I began weeping. The detective who’d found it hard to believe I’d apologized and blessed my “mugger” said, “Ah – it’s finally gettin’ to ya.”
I told him it wasn’t the mugging. It was all those beautiful men. They were once someone’s baby, as perfect and precious as any ever born. What had happened? They didn’t look like criminals to me. They looked like sons, like brothers, like fathers.
The day I met that man in the underpass I was blessed with the miracle of not being afraid of him. Nor was I afraid of him when I saw him three days later picking through garbage for something to eat. I can still see him perfectly when I close my eyes, and my heart still aches for his circumstances.
It’s time to celebrate the returning light, longer days, and the birthing of things. Whether it’s one of the major religious holy days or just a good old solstice ritual, we might sing or dance or tell stories of miracles. A song that tugs at me this year as I consider the humanitarian crises in our world is “Good King Wenceslas.” Perhaps we’ll share our tables and try to give in ways that tell others we cherish them. Perhaps we’ll also set a place for someone who needs us to perceive his goodness so he can grow into it. Perhaps as we share our hearts and homes, our guests will help us grow into our own goodness.
I’d love, more than I can say, to hear your stories of our innate humanity triumphing over our fears and beliefs. These stories are medicine for our sore hearts and baffled minds. Please share them with someone in these holy days. They are expressions of the miracles that may live through each and every one of us.