Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Closest I came to American Idol

I have engaged in an on-going debate with our family’s digital camera. Apparently, this mischievous piece of technological equipment enjoys antagonizing me by taking a picture of me and replacing my picture with an unattractive, fat guy in my spot. Every time I see my picture, I am shocked and insulted by what I see.

“I don’t look like that!” I yell at this expensive paper weight only to be met by with an antagonistic silence which sounds like a shrill, evil laugh in my mind (don’t question my sanity, my wife is a licensed professional counselor and she only has mild concerns about my mental health).

I had a similar experience in high school. My senior year, I had the opportunity to take a few elective courses and because the choices were limited, one of those classes was our school choir. The choir director was excited to have me as she did not have many boys in the choir. I was excited because I fancied myself as a budding rock-n-roll star and thought that this might be the experience that launched my career into stardom.

As I excitedly participated in the first couple days of class, I realized that there was much more to joining a choir than belting out my favorite songs. I had to read and understand music and deliver lyrics in tune. After the third day of class, the teacher asked me to stay over. I was excited as I thought she must have recognized my talent and might be prepared to offer me the lead in the upcoming musical or at least a solo in the next choir event.

“Matt, I have been listening closely and evaluating your singing techniques and skill and . . .”

“You want to give me the lead?!?!” I interrupted.

“Well, no,” she responded, “actually, I was wondering if you could not sing.”

I was confused, “Not sing the solo?”

She was sheepish and clearly a little embarrassed about making her request, “Well, no, I mean . . . just not sing at all.”

I was devastated. “Not sing at all? What do you want me to do?”

“Can you just mouth the words, but not actually sing?” she asked.

“But this is choir, I am supposed to sing.” I argued.

“That is what makes this conversation so hard, please don’t sing.” She repeated. “If I can’t sing, can’t you teach me, you’re the ‘teacher’?” I begged.

“I am sorry Matt, you are beyond help.”

As you might expect, that was my last day in choir.

I have a good friend here in town who explains this as the ‘American Idol Syndrome’. If you’ve ever watched the first few weeks of this reality show, you will see a number of contestants who come on the show to try out for a chance to go to Hollywood, only to be met with brutal honesty that they are simply terrible singers and should not do it in public. The significance of understanding this “syndrome” is to help us realize that most of us have an inconsistent understanding of how the world sees us (not just in singing ability, but in general), or better stated, a lack of self-awareness. Knowing that our perception of ourselves may be inconsistent with that of the world makes us more self-aware . . . or I can just stomp out the evil laughter coming from our current digital camera and buy a better one.

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