From God’s Lips to My Ear

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I got to thinking about lines the other day — straight lines, specifically. By definition, a line is straight, but as I pondered the many kinds of lines in nature, I realized that very few are truly straight. Take, for example, a route between two cities, as the crow flies. If you marked a line on a map with a ruler between Moscow and St. Petersburg, or between San Francisco and Chicago, it would be straight on the two-dimensional surface of the map, but in reality it would bend with the curvature of the earth.

A beam of light traveling at 186,000 miles per second through space would seem to be nature’s perfect example of a straight line; however, its path would be compromised by many influences, such as atmospheric disturbances, gravitational fields, and no less a force than Albert Einstein himself (he proved that a straight line in space is actually a curve). And speaking of gravity, one would think that Newton’s earthbound apple would fulfill the conditions of our search. Had Galileo possessed the means to conduct his Newton-inspired Leaning Tower experiment from a much greater height, such as five miles, he would have seen a variation in the falling objects’ paths. The rotation of the earth around its own axis and accompanying weather systems would create a set of conditions which would affect the gravitational attempt at creating a straight line.

I realized that in nature there are only two examples I could think of that would qualify as being truly straight. One is the earth’s axis. The line from the north pole to the south is as straight as an unplucked banjo string. Anything less would create an irritating wobble in our journey from A.M. to P.M., and from equinox to solstice. Certainly the earth’s axis is as straight as they come.

The other example is one that I learned from my experience as a father. Aside from the axis of a heavenly body, there is no other line straighter than the connection between a toddler’s brain and his tongue. I have never seen a more direct and immediate route than the super highway linking the conception of a child’s thought to the voiced delivery. No sooner is the mere germ of an idea formed in the young one’s gray matter than it bursts forth into the world in all its raw, uncensored, and often embarrassing glory. No editing there. For a child, no standards, rules of etiquette, or even vehement warnings can keep a good thought down. There is nothing more bare, basic, or shameless in its nakedness than an observation voiced by a three-year-old in a large company of adults. The little one will comment on anything, from the size of the boss’ nose to the funny smell that eventually gets blamed on the dog. No amount of shushing can squelch his honesty. Nothing or no one is safe, and everything and everyone is fair game.

From brain to tongue there are no side trips, no extra stops to check for propriety, no deletions. A child says it as it is. Adults will “brooch a subject,” “beat around the bush,” and “side-step the issue.” We cite examples and use allegories, paradigms, and parables to illustrate a point. We have created all sorts of devices to talk around the issues without really committing to anything. A political candidate can speak for hours without giving a clue as to which side of the fence his legs are dangling. White male politicians, on realizing they need the black vote to get elected, quickly manufacture a few new platform planks that they think will appeal to those constituents. A read of a “wet finger in the wind” determines their position that day on abortion, a school bond issue, or a presidential impeachment.

How quickly we lose the honesty of a child as we mature. In growing up we learn the tricks of the trade in the verbal arena. Honesty takes a back seat to ulterior motives and disguising our thoughts and intentions. White lies and deceptions form the plots of most sitcoms on television, and we love it. We live in a climate of excuses, irresponsibility, unaccountability, and buck passing. People cannot commit to policies, positions, relationships, or above-board courses of action.

Maybe we should obtain some absolute, concrete opinions from our truly grounded three-year-olds. “Hey, Mickey! He’ll say anything!” If we could only speak what is in our hearts right then and there: a straight line to the tongue. No detours to evaluate what others may think. No changing our minds mid-stream to accommodate changing attitudes and agenda. Let’s all take a lesson from our straight-arrow young folk and be a little more honest with the world and ourselves, and speak our minds for a change. The Jews have a saying, “From God’s lips to my ear.” You can’t be more direct than that — unless you are a three-year-old.




Stuart Balcomb is a composer/arranger/orchestrator/music copyist, publishes, and owns Amphora Editions, which publishes fine-quality books.

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Stuart Balcomb

Stuart Balcomb

Stuart Balcomb is a composer/arranger/orchestrator/music copyist, publishes , and owns Amphora Editions, which publishes fine-quality books.

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