Suzan McDowell suggested that I blog on the word cacophony.
For the last five months prior to my posting this article, I’ve worked with my 3rd, 4th and 5th grade classes of elementary Theatre students as well as students in music and dance to mount Alice@Wonderland, a 21st century retelling of the classic Lewis Carroll story. The show runs an hour and 15 minutes. The total cast was 121 students, including our “Wonderband” musicians, our Cheshire Cat dancing teams, and we even had student art in the lobby.
Our leads had to be able to sing, as well as keep the audience’s attention for 90 minutes, in a theater that holds close to 600 people.
Our leads were also 10 and 11 years old.
I agonized about the casting of characters in the show. Although ultimately the decision was mine, teachers who knew my students had favorites and, of course, were hoping I would cast accordingly. In the end, I cast according to skill, adaptability and the student’s level of self-motivation. I only get 35 minutes of instructional time with them, by grade level. They meant no harm in making suggestions, but if I listen to outside voices, my students will struggle unnecessarily while learning advanced material.
Cacophony is a compound word whose origin is Greek. “Caco-” is a prefix for “bad, evil” and “phone” means “voice”. Cacophony is defined as “a harsh discordance of sound; dissonance.”
I was led to look up references to an “evil voice” in the Bible. As much as Christians speak about a devil, the strongest reference came from the Psalms of David, in this case, Psalm 55. David was a notoriously troubled leader. His internal struggles were well-documented throughout the Psalms. Here, his conflict is most telling. The evil voice he hears does not come from an enemy.
To the leader: with stringed instruments. A Maskil of David.
Give ear to my prayer, O God;
do not hide yourself from my supplication.
Attend to me, and answer me;
I am troubled in my complaint.
I am distraught by the noise of the enemy,
because of the clamour of the wicked.
For they bring trouble upon me,
and in anger they cherish enmity against me.
My heart is in anguish within me,
the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling come upon me,
and horror overwhelms me.
And I say, ‘O that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest;
truly, I would flee far away;
I would lodge in the wilderness;
I would hurry to find a shelter for myself
from the raging wind and tempest.’
Confuse, O Lord, confound their speech;
for I see violence and strife in the city.
Day and night they go around it
on its walls,
and iniquity and trouble are within it;
ruin is in its midst;
oppression and fraud
do not depart from its market-place.
It is not enemies who taunt me—
I could bear that;
it is not adversaries who deal insolently with me—
I could hide from them.
But it is you, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend,
with whom I kept pleasant company;
we walked in the house of God with the throng.
Let death come upon them;
let them go down alive to Sheol;
for evil is in their homes and in their hearts.
But I call upon God,
and the Lord will save me.
Evening and morning and at noon
I utter my complaint and moan,
and he will hear my voice.
He will redeem me unharmed
from the battle that I wage,
for many are arrayed against me.
God, who is enthroned from of old,
will hear, and will humble them—
because they do not change,
and do not fear God.
My companion laid hands on a friend
and violated a covenant with me
with speech smoother than butter,
but with a heart set on war;
with words that were softer than oil,
but in fact were drawn swords.
Cast your burden on the Lord,
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved.
But you, O God, will cast them down
into the lowest pit;
the bloodthirsty and treacherous
shall not live out half their days.
But I will trust in you.
David’s trouble comes from his closest confidant. He alludes to Jericho, conquered by its own fear of people of Israel. If you read very closely, you see the evil words and voices David prays about are outside the city, but the strife is within. He moves from referring to one source of trouble to many then back to one. He speaks plainly about the anguish in his heart. For Jews, the heart was the center of the mind and body. It is the core of your being.
David’s enemy is his own mind. Even if there are outside voices, your interpretation of that outside influence is what will disrupt your heart.
At what point do you confront the evil voice within you?
This is the voice that would convince you to remain the same, that would say what you want is too big, (or too small), that would use “speech smoother than butter, but with a heart set on war.” When you are in a state of inner dissonance, you can’t move forward. You can’t live in peace, no matter what kingdoms you rule.
If you are in a power struggle at work, or in a personal relationship, or socially, it’s time to resolve your own cacophony. Ask yourself these 3 questions:
1. How much influence do people or outer circumstances have over your life?
You may be the lowest person on your career totem pole. Or, perhaps you’re in another situation where someone wields a lot of power over your circumstances. What do you make that mean? How is that affecting your health?
2. How much influence do those same people have other your opinion of yourself?
Even if you don’t see yourself able to change your situation, that is no reason to judge yourself harshly. More appropriately, you should be handling yourself as gently as possible. Here is where you surrender and let things run their course.
3. How much are you willing to embrace where you are?
The Psalmist (who is assumed to be David) writes “O that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest; truly, I would flee far away;
I would lodge in the wilderness…”
What troubles David most is the noise and clamour. It builds fear and terror in him, and NOTHING BUT WORDS HAVE BEEN SPOKEN. He is so fearful that he wants to run.
Why run? It takes time to separate the noise from the truth. If you’d rather flee, you’ll never discover your true strength. Embracing where you are gives you the space to grow, and gives you the time for self-awareness.
Cacophony, “the evil voice”, is a clarion call to spend some time on yourself so you can get clear. Your clarity of mind will make every voice speak the truth and guide you to greater wisdom.
What outer noise is distracting you from your power? Share how you solved the issue, and subscribe below.