Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love … Book of Common Prayer
I woke up this morning just before dawn; I was awakened by the cheerful chirping of a local bird. Not being an ornithologist, I don’t know what it was, but it was making me an ornery-thologist. I really wasn’t in a mood to open my peepers at four o’clock in the a.m.
Why on earth would a bird be singing at that hour of the morning? Is she singing praises to Brother Sun for his rising, and Sister Moon for her bedding down? Is she screaming at the chicks to get a move on (to catch the proverbial worm), or warning the aforementioned worms to head for shelter? Or is it simply a matter of instinct and tradition – chirping away at the break of day because that’s what all her feathery ancestors have done from time immemorial?
The reasons probably don’t matter. What’s interesting, though, is that I heard the bird at all. I have discovered that my hearing is no longer all it was cracked up to be (good egg that I am), and was never all that good to begin with. I depend on people speaking to me clearly, with good enunciation, pronunciation, pace and volume.
For those who’ve grown up in the Valley Girl era, enunciation has become a lost art (and I’m not just being a cranky old coot when I say that). People slur their words, drop syllables and consonants, and end sentences on an uptalk, so statements often sound like questions. They also tend to over-use the word “like” so that everything, like, becomes metaphorical if taken, like, literally.
I complain, but it isn’t because of the dialect. I think dialects are cool. The issue for me isn’t what they say or how they say it, but rather that I have trouble understanding what is being said. The problem is mine; the frustration is mine; the lack of skillful hearing is mine; the presbyotic ears are mine (and yes, presbyotic is a word – it means old ears, referring to the decline of hearing that occurs with advancing age).
The solution, of course, would be to run into the local hearing center, have my ears tested, and perhaps being fitted for hearing aids. To do that, however, would require several things. First would be a desire to hear something. Those “somethings” might include things like my spouse or the television. Well believe me; they’ve both got lots of unused volume left, so I am not sure that’s an issue.
Second would be a decision to spend money fixing my problem when it would be so much easier if the mumbling world would only learn to SPEAK UP!
I mean, if our computers and typewriters have Caps-Locks, why can’t we just ask people to use their vocal Caps-Locks when talking to one another? Oh sure, it might sound like we’re all mad and it could lead to disagreements and fights, but isn’t that better than being bored by a case of the incomprehensibles?
Maybe I should just admit I am getting older, but I’m not sure I am ready to take the leap into hearing aids, even if they might help me to hear and understand the world around me better – just as eyeglasses keep me from walking into poles, driving into tourists (I would never think of running over most of the locals), or mistaking inanimate object for people a la Mr. Magoo.
I will confess that not everything I fail to hear is caused by a hearing loss; sometimes it is caused by hearing too much. I occasionally suffer from an auditory overload. When I am writing, for instance, I need quiet. I cannot write with music playing or the television on in the background. I know there are folks who are the complete opposite – who need the background noise if they are going to concentrate, but I am not one of them.
For me, Silence truly IS golden; I treasure it with all my heart; a Miranda warning’s unnecessary, for I’ve turned silence into an art!
As long as the chirps of the birds continue to wake me up at the crack of the dawn, I think I’ve still got time to be cheap in this, our presbyotic valley.