The Still, Small Voice

When I was very young I was fascinated by God. I loved hearing stories from the Bible. I loved hearing stories about Guardian Angels and any other kind of angel. I also loved going to church and looking at the decorations, listening to the hymns, even though I couldn’t understand them. There was this whole air of mystery surrounding all things spiritual at church. (It was an Anglican church at the time.)

One story I remember was about the “still, small voice” inside each of us. I remember that each of us is supposed to have this little voice that speaks in feelings if not in words. It’s hardly ever talking out loud, so if you want to hear it, you have to be very still and listen carefully. It’s a voice you feel more than a voice you hear. But you have to be quiet in your mind and your body; otherwise, you just won’t hear it.

I love this notion. I believe in this notion. There’s not much I remember from the church of my youth, but I think I’m remembering this from that experience. This idea is worth remembering. Later in my youth–around age 16–I became a Mormon. At that time I heard much more about the “still, small voice.” But I eventually left that church also and became a different sort of spiritual seeker. Throughout all these changes and shifts in my spiritual hunger and direction, I’ve remembered the “still, small voice.” I’ve mostly tried to listen to it. Mostly.

Finding Trouble

Sometimes when we refuse to listen to that voice, we choose to find trouble instead. We listen to another voice.

The ego part of ourselves is in charge of keeping us safe. When we stick a coat hanger into a light socket as a youngster, our ego makes a huge mental note to never do that again! We may even refuse to touch a coat hanger after that! Throughout our lives, our ego is always looking for trouble and helping us to avoid it.

Unfortunately, sometimes it does too good a job, and we find even more trouble.

It’s easy to over-correct in life. You know, you’re driving along, a deer starts walking out in front of your car, and you swerve to avoid him, only to drive off the cliff that was on the other side of the road or hit the tree next to the cliff.

I came across this quote by Steven Pressfield in Turning Pro:

The payoff for the prisoner is release from the agonizing imperative of identifying, embracing and bringing into material existence the dreams and visions of his own deepest, noblest, and most honorable heart.

I think this quote speaks to the rest of us as well, whether our prisons are made of brick and morter or whether they are made of Resistance.

Sometimes we’re not just finding trouble so we can avoid it. We’re finding trouble so we can find more trouble and then use that trouble to avoid our life’s calling. We want to avoid Turning Pro. Making more crazy all around us is a great way to avoid taking responsibility for being a pro.

The Daily Dual

But once you’ve decided to turn pro, your troubles are not over. Far from it.

Sometimes I think our careers are about making ourselves better rather than changing the world. I’m thinking that might well be true after all. When I look at someone like Mother Theresa or Steve Jobs or even Saul Bellow, it’s hard to see how the world changed dramatically as a direct result of them. I mean, World Hunger didn’t stop, Peace did not break out all over the globe, Evil did not pack up and move away. Little bits of the world might have changed slightly, but mostly, the world has just kept chugging along as it always has.

Yet, each of these individuals–and many, many more–has made one extremely important change to the world: they each blazed a trail of daily work, passion, and going for it. They each did it their way as the song goes. That legacy cannot be impeached. It’s perhaps the greatest gift an individual can leave to the world and to his loved ones.

I’m pretty sure of several things regarding each of these individuals:

  1. They won most of their daily duals with Resistance.
  2. They didn’t know how their lives would end up and were probably surprised that their lives ended as they did.
  3. There was no road map; they had to navigate each day in the dark. The only illumination was their own “still, small voice,” although they might not use those words. But they had to follow their nose to find their direction.

The Shootout

When I was a kid, our family went to Disneyland in Anaheim, CA. We also went to Universal Studios. These trips made huge impressions on me. I was easily still in single digits of years on this planet, and these two places seemed like new galaxies to me. One of my memories from Universal Studios, I think it was, involved a movie shoot out on Main Street in Cowboy Town. It was just the actor who played the Marshal and the actor who played the Bad Guy, having a confrontation in the street.

They both walked into the center of the street. The spectators all watched this from the safety of the grand stands on one side of the street, with the movie set on the opposite side of the street, and the actors on the street itself.

Marshal: “Past time for you to be gone, Bart.”

Bad Guy: “You’re gonna have to make me leave, Marshal. Or at least you can try.”

Marshal: “Whenever your’re ready, Bart.”

Then Bart goes for his gun, the Marshal shoots him dead, and then one or more of Bart’s friends try to shoot the Marshal too, and they get gunned down. Of course, one of the Bad Guys always comes out of an upstairs balcony to shoot the Marshal, and when he gets shot he falls two stories onto a mattress or something hidden behind a wagon. It was all spectacular to my young sensibilities. I couldn’t close my mouth for days.

But, being as how my inner child and my “still, small voice” are such good friends, I like to think of my daily dual with Resistance like a shootout.

My goal is to survive this confrontation each day. I just have to sit down and do my work long enough so that Resistance leaves town for the rest of the day. Then we’ll return the next day for another shoot out, and this is what I call my daily dual.

If I don’t show up each day for this dual, I start finding even more serious trouble in life.