Listening to the Little Voices?

Ash and Mom

“Listen to the little voices.” I repeated this mantra over and over again to our children.

My stepdaughter says it’s one of the best pieces of advice she ever got.

But my daughter once looked at me in a moment of frustration and said, “How am I supposed to know which little voices are the right ones?!”

Both have a point. The little voices that speak to our conscience and steer us in a sound direction are almost always right. But in a world of clamor, where so many voices compete for our ear, it’s often hard to discern which little voices should command our full attention.

The Internet has given us easy access to fact, myth, and opinion, and wading through the cacophony has never been more difficult. I sometimes wonder, if Jesus lived today, whether he’d be heard above the din of social media or whether his words would be one of those grass roots phenomena that become web sensations overnight.

If our Creator became flesh and dwelt among us, would we even recognize her voice?

I don’t know. But I do know that our best chances of recognizing those voices for grace and love and positive change come from the daily practice of listening to the little voices inside us that urge us to be our better selves. And such voices do not only come out of the mouths of Christians.

I’m hopeful. More and more of us are growing tired of the clangor of angry, obnoxious loudmouths who seek to play on the worst in us—to make us fear and hate those around us.

Every time I read or hear a rational voice in the babel, I try to listen. And I grow more hopeful.

So I want to share some of the little voices I’ve heard recently. And I hope that you will share them with others—and that you will share your own finds of the little voices that the media overlooks. These are the voices that don’t make headlines. But they are the voices that make sense. Here are two that I’ve heard in the past week:

“The point is that people don’t like mean people and judgmental people and power-hungry people, regardless of their religion,” says Jonathan Merritt, an evangelical Christian who writes for the Religious News Service. Merritt has earned the ire of those who insist that Christianity is under attack by asking the question Jesus asked: “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye but do not notice the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:5, NRSV).

Lesley Hazleton, an agnostic who has written a biography of Muhammed, says something similar: “…we, the vast and still far too silent majority, have ceded the public arena to this extremist minority….And we’ve allowed ourselves to be blinded to the fact that no matter whether they claim to be Christians, Jews or Muslims, militant extremists are none of the above. They’re a cult all their own, blood brothers steeped in other people’s blood.”

So how do we, “the vast but still far too silent majority,” make our voices heard? How do we create a choir of harmonious voices for a more peaceful future for our children—a world where it’s easier to hear the little voices?

I imagine it would be something like Eric Whitacre’s virtual choirs—with more and more people joining in to create a breathtaking and magnificent harmony. Whitacre began an experiment in social media in 2009, where he blended videos of 185 voices from twelve countries to form a virtual choir that he presented at a Ted Conference. The resulting performance of his composition “Lux Aurumque” was stunning and beautiful, and it remains my favorite, perhaps because I first heard Whitacre’s story from his TedTalk. The sweet face of the girl who initiated the idea has remained in my mind since I first saw it.

The second year, Whitacre had 2051 singers from 58 countries; the third year 3746 singers from 73 countries. In the most recent virtual choir, Whitacre brought together 5905 singers from 101 countries. At last year’s Ted Conference, Whitacre blended both virtual and live voices. And now he’s working on creating a Virtual Youth Choir. Each choir is a powerful testament to what can happen when little voices can be brought together in harmony.

Let’s listen for the little voices. Let’s bring them together. We are the too quiet majority, and the world needs every one of us.

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