The phone rang at the other end. The person picked up and said, “Hi, Ruth Anne,” before I had said a word.
It used to take me aback when call display first arrived. It almost felt like magic, and kind of creepy, until you realized your identification on the screen gave you away. Sure, it’s handy to know who is calling, it’s easier to avoid unwanted contact. But it is also just another little chip out of the mystery and anticipation in our daily lives. Like knowing the gender of your unborn child. Or the weather for the next seven days (Ha ha).
Before technology advanced to the stage where a voice can activate devices or voice recognition was used as a security tool, we possessed a powerful advantage which has been with us from the beginning of time. Our hearing and our own unique voice. In the “old days” you knew who the caller was by the sound of his or her voice. We all have our own special sound, so much so that even a blind person familiar with us knows us when we speak. Or we can pick out a particular voice in a crowd or in another room. It is our vocal fingerprint.
In ancient times (and perhaps even today in some areas of the world) several different flocks of sheep were herded into a communal holding pen at night. They all mingled together in safety within the walls. A shepherd would sleep across the opening during the night as a deterrent to sheep going out or predators sneaking in. In the morning, the other shepherds would come to collect their own sheep and take them to pasture. Now here is the fascinating part, they would call to their own sheep and amazingly those sheep would separate from the group and follow their owner. They knew him by his own special,
I remember as a kid we had stacks of old records. One of the popular labels from way back showed the logo of a cute little dog sitting at rapt attention in front of a gramophone with a huge shell-shaped speaker. “His Master’s Voice” was the company name. That visual image just about said it all.
The tone and timber of a voice can speak volumes without using many words. It can comfort and encourage. Condemn and humiliate. Praise and honour. Tease and cajole. Pronounce life or death. Warn and threaten. Cause doubt or suspicion. Whine and complain. Bubble with joy and excitement. The use of our voice is an awesome privilege, but also a huge responsibility.
The funny thing is, even though our voice is unique and easily identifiable to others, we don’t hear it the same way ourselves. It was a real shock the first time I heard my own recorded voice. That wasn’t ME!
The sound of a certain voice can trigger all kinds of emotions. Precious memory. Anger. Fear. It can conjure up the face of absent loved ones. Revive a momentous event. Carry us back in time to a different place and world. The voice is used as an everyday tool. It can whisper or shout. Teach and command by its inflection. Try saying a simple sentence putting different emphasis on each individual word. Why did you do that? A simple question. But when you say, why did you do that, it demands a reason. Why did you do that is a plea for understanding. Why did you do that is asking for accountability. Why did you do that requires explanation. Why did you do that needs clarification. So the tone and intent of a voice is almost as important as the words used.
Then there is the “still small voice” that has no sound at all. It is heard only inside ourselves and is transmitted through the heart. We call it by different names. Conscience. A word from God. Intuition. Whatever it is it can sound as loud as a tolling bell or as shadowy as a whisper. But we learn to acknowledge it as much as the audible voice.
I have no idea about all the scientific ramifications associated with the human voice. I am sure they are varied and intricate. I just know how grateful I am when I hear a beloved voice and recognize it as the essence of all that person is. The voice. A precious gift we should never take for granted.