ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

DODGING THE DUM-DUMS IN LIFE’S SOUNDTRACK

I’m not complaining.  Honest.  I just have one little suggestion for whoever is in charge.

A soundtrack.  You know – like in the movies.  And I’m not just thinking aesthetics here, although I admit I like the idea of John Williams scoring my life (a little “Superman,” a dash of “Star Wars” and a hearty dose of “Dumb and Dumber”).  It just seems to me that life would be simpler if we had a few musical cues to help us understand what’s going on.

The idea came to me a few weeks ago while we were watching a “Jaws” rerun on TV.  There was a scene with a bunch of children playing in the water, and Beth was getting nervous.

“Get out of the water!” my 17-year-old daughter warned the kids on TV, who for some reason weren’t listening to her.  “There’s a shark out there!”

“No way,” said 15-year-old Jon.  “No dum-dums.”

“Dum-dums?  You mean the kids on the beach?”

“No – I mean the music,” Jon said.  Then he sang his adolescent imitation of that scary theme music that accompanies every impending “Jaws” attack:  Duhhh-dum.  Duhhh-dum.  Dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum.”

“No dum-dums, no shark attack,” he concluded, confidently.

We continued watching the frolicking youngsters on the screen.  Jon was right – there were no dum-dums, and no shark.  But before long a group of teenagers entered the water.  Only this time . . . duhhh-dum.  Duhhh-dum.  Duhhh-dum.  Dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum.

Suddenly there was a shark – and one less dum-dum in the water.

That’s when it hit me: If those teenagers had been able to hear the soundtrack they would have known there was danger afoot . . . er, afin.  And if they chose to ignore the warning . . . well, maybe they deserved to be sharkie biscuits.

It would make life a lot easier if we each had our own soundtrack.  If you were about to make a major financial investment you’d probably think twice if you suddenly heard the strains of “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”  Or you might reconsider that cruise if you boarded a ship and heard your soundtrack playing the theme from “Titanic.”  And wouldn’t it be great to make an important decision to the accompaniment of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”?

Unfortunately, there is no soundtrack to reality.  And to tell you the truth, I don’t think the technology is forthcoming.  Which sort of leaves us all dangling in the same precarious position – unsure, unstable and uncertain.  Instead of a beautifully orchestrated musical score, we usually find ourselves making up the tune as we go along.

Or do we?

Throughout my life I have known people who had an unusual sense of themselves and the direction they are headed in life.  Perhaps you’ve known people like that too.  They’re not any smarter than the rest of us, but they share a secret for success.  Some call it “conscience,” while others call it “intuition.”  Some refer to it as a “muse” they must follow, while others prefer to describe it in religious terms.

Whatever you wish to call it, I’m convinced there is something inside us that can help us to make good decisions and choices.  It requires a little more effort than simply responding to the music in a movie soundtrack.  We have to take time to ponder our circumstances and carefully weigh our options.  We have to patiently wait for those impressions to come from within, and then have the sensitivity to understand and interpret them when they arrive.  And we have to have the courage to act upon those impressions – and to accept the consequences of our actions.

Of course, tuning in to the music of our lives won’t necessarily spare us from all heartache.  But if the time comes when we can compose our own personal soundtracks, at least we’ll know where to put the cymbal crashes.

And where to put the dum-dums.

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— © Joseph Walker

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