Friday, January 1, 2016

Hear This!

January 1, 2016

Often one doesn't really know what to expect. From "This is guaranteed to change your life" to "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor," we've all gotten sucked into situations that didn't live up to their hype. But occasionally we stumble upon those things that exceed our expectations and actually do transform our lives. Three years ago I began what has turned out to be exactly what it was made out to be-a journey of joy. In my desperation, I was grabbing at straws and happened to grab hold of a strong life rope thrown to me by God's grace. It was in the form of a calendar or schedule of gratitude. I took the challenge, and it saved my life.

The challenge was simple-three suggestions each day of things for which to be grateful. I did that for a year, then branched out to things of my own choosing. It has been enlightening for me, but too often, I would come to the end of the day not having actually taken much time or effort to ponder the blessings I've been given. When evening came, I would often find myself scrambling to think of what for which to give thanks that day. Too often, the results were in my opinion, pretty shallow and contrived. So I've decided this year to return to following the calendar suggested on the website Still needing to finish my reflections on the Apostles' Creed, I won't be particularly OCD about it, but will use the calendar like the lectionary, as it offers a structure for my gratitude. Also, I won't always come up with three items. So with that introduction, it's time to begin.


The fact that I can hear at all is gift enough for me. My family has a history of hearing disorder that I have unhappily inherited. My paternal grandmother was so profoundly deaf in her last years that not even being able to hear her own voice, her speech degenerated into a meaningless mumbling. Both my parents have used hearing aids for years, and about fifteen years ago, I was first fitted for them. Without the assistance of these technological wonders, I would not be able to understand my grandchildrens' speech, and general conversation would be extremely difficult for me.

I was not yet a teenager when I first noticed what would develop into full-fledged full-time tinnitus. As a little kid, I can remember lying in bed on a summer's evening looking out the window at the stars and hearing an intermittent beeping. I thought perhaps aliens were trying to contact me, but to my knowledge, they never did. Or maybe they did, but in a presaging of Linda's occasional complaint, maybe I wasn't really listening. At any rate, this high pitched squealing in my ears is a constant companion, day and night, never ceasing, always there. I've read of people who have been driven to madness or suicide by their tinnitis, but while it can be irritating, it's nothing for which I am willing to give my life, and if it's going to drive me to madness, it's going to have to get in line. It could be a very short trip.

In reality, although I wouldn't be unhappy to have it suddenly disappear so I could hear the birds sing without it sounding like there is this continual electronic feedback screeching inside my head, I am somewhat grateful for it, because it makes me aware as I would not otherwise be of this amazing gift of hearing we have. It is amazing to think that sound waves striking the eardrum and transmitted through three tiny little bones to nerves inside the inner ear which send signals to the brain which then interprets those signals as sound. Even more is the ability to distinguish different sounds and tonalities, such as my bassoon or bass, or a clarinet or trumpet, and even more amazingly, the vowels and consonants that make up human speech. Even with the ringing in my ears, I can pick out the different instruments in an orchestra and revel in the timbre and tone, the melodies and harmonies of classical, country, and jazz music. Best of all is the soft sighing I hear as my wife slumbers beside me. That is truly music to my ears!

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