Everyone Can Sing in the Shower: Why Diversity of Thought Matters
I’ve got to be honest. I love to sing in the shower.
When I make a trip to the community bathroom of J. Alvin Brown Hall suite 14 to perform daily cleaning rituals, my list of necessary supplies includes soap, shampoo, and a Bluetooth speaker.
Shower time is not complete without belting a falsetto 80s ballad at the top of my lungs.
Unfortunately, my suitemates may not be too fond of this.
You see, I can’t really sing.
In an unfortunate roll of the genetic dice, I have been blessed with my father’s end of the gene pool in the musical realm (My mother was a singer in a Branson show in the days before Branson shows were the place washed-up country singers went to die). I seem to forget this, however, when I am singing in the shower. I confess that in the moment, when I’m out-singing (in volume anyways) Journey, Toto, or Whitney Houston, sometimes I think to myself, “Hey, I sound pretty good. Maybe I can sing.”
This vanity is easily cured by a Tuesday or Thursday morning trip to the Cathedral of the Ozarks. During worship in chapel, I hear the (sometimes) beautiful voices of those around me, listen to the comparative correctness (or lack thereof) of the notes proceeding from my mouth, and am brought quickly back to reality.
Why is it that I can sound so good in one setting, and so bad in another?
Well, scientifically, everyone sounds good when singing in the shower.
The smooth tile surfaces of the shower and the surrounding bathroom serve to acoustically magnify the voice of the singer. When you sing in the shower, your voice bounces back to you from all directions. When you sing in the shower, you are backed up by a choir consisting of duplicates of your own voice.
The shower functions, essentially, as an echo chamber.
When I sing in the shower, I believe I sound good because I have nothing to compare my voice to but itself. It is only when I am surrounded by diverse voices that I can hear my own melodious mistakes and (hopefully) correct them.
While this principle rings true in the realm of music, I believe it is also applicable in the realms of philosophy and politics.
As a conservative Christian from the Bible Belt, I know a thing or two about echo chambers.
In my hometown of Branson Missouri, you can sometimes be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t believe strongly in God, America, the Republican Party, Fox News, and Country Music (and not always in that order, I might add).
In all honesty, I grew up often thinking that anyone who disagreed with me was stupid, evil, or fundamentally misinformed. This was a somewhat understandable position, albeit a wrong one, since nearly all the viewpoints around me simply reinforced my own.
Looking back, I am very grateful for my high school experience, because without it the world outside of Hillbilly Vegas may have hit me like a ton of bricks.
I attended a private Christian school, which I’m sure to some of you may sound like the echo chamber of all echo chambers. Fortunately, though, it was not.
Instead of allowing the classroom to become an echo chamber, teachers forced me to honestly examine each side of a particular theological, political, or social issue and form an educated opinion before sharing their own personal convictions. Our classroom did not only engage the best of Christian thought, but the best of secular thought as well. I had to look at what I had always heard about Christianity, politics, history, and science, and ask myself, “Is this really true?”
It was certainly uncomfortable at times. Having to honestly question one’s own convictions is never easy. Singing in a group is often a much more difficult experience than singing in the shower.
But it’s worth it.
I believe that I came out of high school a much more well-rounded and developed individual than when I came in. I still couldn’t sing, but that is somewhat beside the point. I will readily admit that, after engaging the “opposite” viewpoint, I even changed my mind completely on some issues. When I think back, the idea (which I once held) that I have the correct opinion on every subject in the realm of human thought is ludicrous. I am sure that I am still wrong about plenty of things now. To paraphrase a theologian discussing the ever-controversial theological topic of the rapture, “I am not opposed to changing my beliefs mid-air.” Had I not been placed in an environment where I had to truly engage people who thought differently than me, I don’t think I ever would have realized this. Only by taking my voice from the shower to the choir was I able to improve it.
“Now wait,” some of you might object, “what if I’m actually right about something? What then?” I’m glad you ask. While I have already stated that I know I’m not right about everything, I would also like to tentatively assert that I believe, at least at some point in my life, I have also had the pleasant experience of holding a correct opinion about something.
If that is also the case with you, I assure you that you have nothing to fear in the choir. In fact, we need more voices like yours. While I have certainly experienced my fair share of personal wrong notes, I have can also vividly remember several times in chapel when I could tell without a doubt that, however bad my singing was, I was closer to the tune than the guy next to me.
In the same way, environments that encourage diverse thought not only correct us when we are wrong but also assure us when we are right. If we are truly confident in what we believe, we need not be afraid to test it against other viewpoints. If we examine all sides of an issue and find that we still hold the same opinion as before, we can now hold it more confidently because it is objectively true, not simply because it is what our parents, or our professors, or our friends told us.
JBU has the potential to be a place where diversity of thought can flourish. In some ways, it already is. I am an enormous fan of the ethnic, political, and theological diversity that I have experienced during my first year as a member of this community. Christians being different from each other and yet still loving each other. Imagine that.
At some points, however, I have been concerned by people from various points on the ideological spectrum seemingly desiring to squelch the voices of those they disagree with. I am not going to get into specifics, as I don’t think that would be edifying or helpful in this medium. I will, however, implore each one of us to examine ourselves:
Do I truly listen to others? Am I willing to engage those who disagree with me, even if it is uncomfortable? Do I really want to hear the truth, or just what makes me feel good? Do I share my opinions in a respectful manner?
And really, do share your opinions. Please. Write us an article. Liberal, conservative, or anywhere in between. I need your voice, and I hope that you can benefit from mine. That is why I believe so strongly in what The Defendant is doing. We want this to be a place where diversity of thought and beneficial conversation can take place--conversation that I would contend we desperately need if we are going to function as a healthy community. Only by intermingling our voices with those of others can we develop personally and find the truth corporately.
Everyone can sing in the shower, but that doesn’t mean that everyone can actually sing.
Trust me, I would know.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not claim to reflect the opinions or views of The Defendant or its staff members.