Rev. John Farmer’s ‘Reflections’ column

by Rev. John Howard Farmer

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Faith by Sight & Sound

You might as well ask me to be dead as to be silent. My mind thrives on a collection of sounds. Yet sound, not of my choosing, bothers me. I have mentioned often to youthful lads and lasses in my environment that I choose not to like their sounds. They, like me, should opt for the better sounds, like heavy classical music – soothing, inspiring sounds. Then I learned from the Reuters wire service that, “Railway officials in a Dutch town tested a plan to play classical music by the likes of Bach and Beethoven in the station’s pedestrian tunnel. They hoped that it would drive away drug users.”

Decades ago, officials in the town of Heerlen, near Maastricht, Netherlands, carried out tests on music by various classical composers to discover which one irritated junkies the most. “The idea for the tunnel, which is close to a shelter for drug users, was taken on board by Heerlen after successful experiments in stations in Hamburg and Paris.”

Oh well, so much for my argument about loud, classical music. What defense will I use with my kids and grandkids now?

Our youngest son Rob, once after traveling some 300 miles with me in Vivian Volvo said, “Seven hours of loud classical music riding with John makes you want to beat your head on the dash.” He’s now a hubby, the dad of two chaps and most often found on the golf course at Indian Creek. We laugh about our early days when we were becoming family. A wedding gift from Hazel, he’s proof that children can be born in our hearts. I am blessed.

The word listen appears over 200 times in the Old Testament alone, another 100-plus times in the New Testament. “Listen, you that are deaf; and you that are blind, look up and see,” (Isaiah 42:18).

As I write, I have to admit that my fear of silence haunts me. Much like the Phantom of the Opera made famous in the old black and white 1925 movie and later reprised on Broadway I love loud, heavy organ music. In a 1950s showing, that organ music played by the late Eddie Weaver was captured by my young ears at the Lowes Theater. (Weaver, musician at Miller & Rhoads Tea Room, Lowe’s Theater and The Byrd Theater, died at 92, January 27, 2000.)

Before I even open my computer to begin these weekly chats I often select a heavy, heavy, long-playing CD of organ music, loud organ music.

There are other times though, times when I by force or accident arrive at some serene venue, when I am caught in silence and revel in it. I have plodded through forest and thicket to blunder into a clearing paved with running cedar or May apples. From tree and vines I have stepped out upon an old roadbed and wondered, where off did the feet of those who trod it so smooth into our land that it will not heal, where did those folks wander?

In days of yore I sat in our flat bottom wooden skiff (built by the late Calvin Oliver (1905-1991) beneath our pier and watched as the shore birds gathered their harvest from sand and mud. Did you ever wonder how they chewed their food with a mouthful of grit? One ponders such, when one is still and when one is silent. Along our shore swallows built their mud nest in the groins of pier and post. Their wings create quite a flutter as they rise and dive in an aerial circus. I suppose that seagulls might make wing music as well, but they also create such a chatter announcing their ever-empty stomachs. Clever birds, they fetch oysters from the river bed and drop them on the roads and piers to shuck supper. They don’t mind hanging around shopping areas where there are fast food restaurants either; beggars, squawking a handout.

It is scintillating to sit quiet on a porch in summer and listen to the hummingbirds pop by and sample whatever is abloom. Their tiny wings offer such a hum as to almost vibrate the air around us. In Ezekiel 10:5 the prophet reports that, “the sound of the wings of the cherubim was heard as far as the outer court, like the voice of God Almighty when he speaks.” One surely has to be silent to hear such a divine sound.

Do remember that the letters which spell silent also spell listen. It cannot be an accident of alphabet. A wise and wonderful Biblical quotation cautions “be still and know.”

We truly live in an audio and visual environment, our look and listen world. One of my most salient observations for early television days is the voice of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen (1895-1979), whose motto was: “Look up and Live.” He’s the first radio/television preacher that captured my attention. I still see him. I still hear him. He spoke soft.

If, as medical authorities teach, we are what we eat, (mind you I have heard much too much about that subject of late) then it must also be true that we become what we see and hear. Surely it matters what our eyes and ears own.

Hush now: listen to the still small voice of God. He yet has a word for us. Hear him. See him. Observe him. Worship him.