I’m getting towards the very end of the story that’s helped me navigate the wee hours of the morning recently, when my “monkey mind” kicks into full gear. The book is All the Light You Cannot See, and (without spoiling anything for anyone who has yet to read it and would still like to) I’m at the part where the voice of one human being, transmitted over the radio, becomes like light in the darkness to another.
I imagine you, like me, have come to appreciate many things over the last few weeks that you once took for granted, or that you didn’t quite really notice or appreciate in the way you do now. Take, for example, the gift of a human voice …
In this prolonged season of physical distancing, perhaps you too have been spending more intentional time connecting with people over the phone than you have in a long time. And so perhaps you too have become keenly aware of the uniqueness and power of each and every human voice you hear: the power of hearing the voice of someone you haven’t seen in awhile, the voice of someone you miss — or that you didn’t even know you missed, until you hear that particular voice. The unique timbre, tone, warmth of your friend’s voice. The way he or she laughs or pronounces certain words, the speed at which s/he talks. The emotions, memories, feelings this voice calls up, for you. The image of his/her face. The quality and depth of soul.
Studies over the past decade have drawn attention to the way our human brains develop the mechanism to process human voices in utero, long before we learn how to speak https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125123354. To this day, I remember the way my daughter Grace, just seconds after she was born, craned her neck towards the sound of my voice, the same voice she had heard singing and talking to her all those months before she emerged into the light.
Our Gospel passage from John this past Sunday speaks of the power of the voice of our Lord, calling to those who would follow him: “… the sheep hear [their shepherd’s] voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out … and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.”
To hear the voice of a beloved is to know and to be known. It reminds us and revives in us a sense of connectedness, relationship and belonging. And it has the power to convey his/her presence with us and for us, despite the separation of physical distance. Like our fingerprints, our voices are unique; they have the power to convey the essence of who we are, each of us made in the image of the Divine Mystery who called us into being.
So my friends, I invite and encourage you today, if you haven’t already, to pick up the phone and connect with someone whose voice you’d like to hear.
Chances are, they’d like to hear yours, too.