This week’s tool for Sunday School was a stethoscope. I knew I’d get the normal argument about how a stethoscope would never be found in a real toolbox. Still, it looked like an interesting lesson on listening. I was in luck. Meka had taken training to be a nurse’s aide and had a real stethoscope. I borrowed it and spent several minutes trying to locate my heartbeat. It’s not as easy as you’d think. After some anxiety, I did manage to determine I was still alive.
There were a number of suggested activities in this lesson plan. The stethoscope was one. The other was sound effects. I used to work in radio and I used to make movies. I loaded up my iPod with lots of sound effects. Individual sounds could be used in a guessing game. I had wide stereo “soundscapes” to evoke mood. These sounds of a thunderstorm, a city, a train going past, crowds shouting and cheering, these could all be perceived as “happy” or “scary” or “sad”, depending on what they focused on. It would fall back to the stethoscope. It only took me a few minutes to learn how to use it; it took a career to interpret those sounds to make medical diagnoses.
That was the part I was most excited about. It wasn’t enough to hear, but to actually listen. I had some sounds that weren’t “sounds” in the sense we could hear them with our own ears. I found a recording of humpback whales moaning in the ocean. I also found the eerie whistling of the aurora on Saturn coupled with the low windy sounds blowing out from the sun across space. I also found the steady, rhythmic tapping from a pulsar, spinning in space like a cosmic metronome. Once we learned to listen, we found out more about the world around us. We could apply that lesson to each other and truly come to consensus when we applied the Golden Rule: listen to others like you would like to be listened to by others.
It turned out to be a pretty good class. The kids liked the soundscapes, describing them in a myriad of emotions. They guessed at the individual sounds and were surprised that what they thought were drums was actually someone chopping down a tree. We expressed our joys and concerns and – in the end – were ready to add the stethoscope to the Toolbox of our Faith. It was then and only then that I discovered that I was a week off; they had learned to listen the week before and applied the Golden Rule this week to my repeat lecture.