Humanness Is Enough

Human beings have limits. Some of them are flexible. Some of them absolutely are not. The human body will definitely die if some very specific things happen to it. It will also be harmed under some circumstances.

Interestingly, some people don’t care about that. They really do not care about respecting the limits of their physical bodies, up to taking severe risks with their own lives. Many people are taught that the body is stupid, or that the body is to be punished because it is bad or “sinful”. People are taught to defile the body as a way of showing spiritual strength (an odd idea indeed) and that the body will lead them astray if it allowed to “have its way”.

These ideas are ignorant. The body is should not be worshipped nor reviled. It isn’t inherently good or bad, but it has its own integrity. The body is going to stay alive because that is what it is programmed to do. If something happens to impede its ability to keep going there are mechanisms within it in the brain that will emerge and strongly work to keep the body going even while it is under siege inside or outside.

The vocal folds are in the throat to protect the lungs from foreign bodies. The swallowing mechanism is there to protect us from ingesting food or drink into the lungs, lest we die. The fact that we make sound from the vocal folds apparently was a supplemental development somewhere along the line of our evolution over thousands of years. We still do not know why we sing, although some think that singing was a way to build social contact, making tribal living more acceptable and increasing our ability to survive in a group rather than alone. That’s just a theory, not a proven fact.

We live in a society that glories “super human” efforts. We like sports that are “out there” and activities like that as well. We honor risk takers (when they survive their risk-taking) and we reward those that push past normal physical limits with prizes and honors. There are entire swaths of society (not just in the Western world, but all over) that look up to those who have gone beyond physical injury or restriction, even if that restriction is self-inflicted.

Extreme singing is popular. It is exciting. It is thrilling to hear (and sometimes also see). It isn’t what the average person sounds like when she sings. Extreme singing has been around for quite some time (you could consider the “castrati” extreme singers), but the extremes of extreme singing are always getting……ahem…..more extreme.

If someone can scream out very loud, very high, very powerful notes over and over again and not get hoarse, and maybe even work at a high level as a professional singer, does that mean that every singer should do that? Does it mean that every singer should be held to that standard? Saying yes would be like saying that every person who wants to play basketball should be 7 feet tall, and every person who wants to be a fashion model should be 6 feet tall and weigh 120 pounds (oh, yes, we do that, don’t we).

There is a big case for being human, as in average, as being ENOUGH. It is enough to have normal abilities, standards, activities, and capacities. It is enough to sing well, beautifully, expressively, and in a way that is unique to you and your body’s own natural behaviors. Training to develop your abilities isn’t the same as training to make yourself compete with a 350 pound operatic mezzo whose normal vocal output runs to 115 decibels. Yes, some people can belt to G every night and be fine but, guess what, that’s not most singers. In fact, that’s not even most belters.

For me, being human is a gift. I honor my body in its “older self” version. I honor its femaleness and I honor it for what it has done all my life to keep me breathing and living. I am healthy, I take no medications, I have no ailments and I am certainly no one’s example of a perfect specimen. Nevertheless, I care about my body and my voice and I am grateful every day for my human imperfection.

Ich habe genug.

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