I went to a small liberal arts college in that sat between a quaint white-washed town and a corn field. It was tiny by most standards. To this day, I can probably look at a picture of most of my classmates and tell you something about them. Even if I don't know their names, I know what department they were in or the types of people that they hung out with or where they sat in the cafeteria. Everyone knew everyone and everyone was in people's business. It was suffocating and exhausting, endearing and welcoming, depending on your personality, disposition, and ability to withstand silent Midwestern criticism.
As the beast of our human nature would have it, there was a group of people that was deeply alienated from the caste system of our school. They were the gays, the jocks who failed to participate in jock-stereotypes, the physically disabled, and the socially awkward. Some were able to hide their alienation while they pretended to fit into the system. Others were not so crafty--either out of indifference or inability to hide. Those who could not hide earned nicknames, ridicule, and scorn from their supposed Christian brothers and sisters.
One such soul was a man I remember only by his nickname. He was quirky, unshaven and unkempt. His shirts managed to tuck themselves in at weird angles and un-tuck themselves in unbecoming ways. But it wasn't his appearance that brought him attention, everyone is slightly unkempt in college. Rather, it was his uncanny ability to deliver a soundtrack to every moment of life. He sang, whistled, and hummed everywhere he went regardless of what was going on around him. For this, he earned the nickname: Michael Bolton.
He loved church hymns, but his repertoire was as undiscriminating as his choice of practice room. He harmonized on the way to class, on the sidewalk, at the mailboxes, and while sitting in class. He often caroused his tablemates to join him in a dining room serenade, annoying anyone in a five table radius and earning the scorn of many. His joy for music was uncontainable and irritating.
I think of Michael Bolton often these days. I climb on my bike and often a song leaps into my head. It often insists that I sing and whistle until I arrive home. I can't keep the song inside of me, containment seems silly, futile, and perhaps even damaging to my inner-choir. As an immature wandering college student, I didn't understand Michael Bolton's need to continually sing, to recklessly abandon social norms to declare a melody to the world. Today, there is a small chance that I get it.
The world needs a song. My neighbors need my roommate to sing when she is taking the trash out. My schoolmates and fellow travelers need me to sing while I am on my bike. The song needs to be let out of its cage. We need the surprise of a voice, a whistle, and a hum to call us out of our slumber, complacency, our inattentive wanderings so that we might pay attention to the pain and the beauty of every moment in every person.
This post is written as a contribution to a friendly synchroblog. Please check out the writing and art of my fellow bloggers.
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