By now, most people who have television or Internet access throughout the world have seen the surprise singing sensation, Susan Boyle, give her debut performance on Britain’s Got Talent. For those who haven’t been glued to a screen in the past couple weeks, go here to see/hear it.
Like so many, as I watched this audition unfold, I became quite emotional. I’ve since read more than a few reactionary accounts of viewers who cannot refrain from crying each time they see the video. Some seem strangely addicted. They keep going back to watch this over and over again. They remain perplexed by having been so caught off guard. Later, well after the novelty has worn off and whenever they need an emotional readjustment, they go back and view it again, and again, and again. Many a discussion has taken place worldwide over how Susan wowed the judges and audience, which, by all accounts, wasn’t prepared for what was about to take place.
But I have to tell you, after my initial emotions had subsided, some secondary ones began to emerge; those hovering more along the lines of sadness. For along with the thrill I felt for this woman upon seeing the audience’s surprised reactions to her angelic voice, I also felt disheartened that it should be such a shock that someone so ordinary (from outside appearances) could have something so extraordinary, so beautiful, to offer the world.
What does this say about us? The truth is that we’ve gotten to such a low point that, more often than not, we only highlight the most beautiful among us. We’ve set ourselves up, created a trap for ourselves. How many Susan Boyles have passed us by without so much as a glance from us? I’d hazard to guess a great many indeed.
The day after her performance, the looming question seemed to be: How could we have missed her earlier? How was it that this woman escaped our ears for so long? But the more pressing question to me is why the media gets to decide which Susans we see and which remain hidden.
Let me revive an old philosophical question to go further with my thoughts: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Or, if an ordinary-looking woman exists in the world for 47 years and spends most of those years singing beautiful songs in her quiet, Scottish village, and that same woman and her voice are discovered by the rest of the world, does her value increase just because she’s been noticed by a larger audience?
In other words, is it only because she has been exposed to the world, through the media, that Susan Boyle’s singing voice is worthy of being called beautiful? Of course not. She and her songs have been beautiful for many, many years. Although we might feel we’ve been gypped by not knowing of her before, certainly, those years were not wasted just because Britain’s Got Talent didn’t happen to be a reality yet.
There are many, many, many people in the world doing beautiful things that go unnoticed. Just because those things are not highlighted on prime-time television doesn’t make them less worthy. Some of these people will die without ever being noticed by the wider world. That doesn’t mean their lives will be any less real or valuable. They created something beautiful, whether it was noticed by others or not. That creative act, in and of itself, made the world a better place, whether or not we were aware.
I believe that when we create, we are, by and large, meant to share our creation with others. But it is more about what’s going on on the inside during that process and less about what is projected outward, even though the projection outward of something lovely does add to the world.
I don’t want to take anything away from Susan. She deserves to have her day in the spotlight. But I’m wondering whether she is going to be happier from here on out than she was last year — you know, back when she was a just a lowly, middleaged, unemployed villager singing at church.
And this is where I get sad again, because I am worried about Susan. I look at that sweet, sparky lady, and then pan over to the audience with its sneering glances and quick reversal (the standing ovation), and I see her as a lamb about to be fed to the wolves. I can’t help but wonder if the journey ahead of her is truly going to be as incredible as she imagined; if the dream she dreamed that has now come true is going to be as dreamy as she’d envisioned.
I am not typically cynical by nature, but in this case, I am nervous for poor Susan. I’m happy she got her due, but worried she’s not even close to being prepared for what awaits her. We saw in that video how quickly we are inclined, en masse, to either turn on someone or herald them as a hero. Yesterday, an unsung hero; today, one who has sung. But now that Susan has achieved her dream, even if she goes the whole rags-to-riches journey and becomes wealthy, will she truly be in a better place?
It all depends on who Susan is at her core; what’s at the center of her soul. If in those years leading up to this shining moment she has tended her spirit as well as her singing voice, if she knows that at the end of the day she’s a child of God above all else, if she can stay centered through all of the cameras and attention that will threaten to eat her alive, all will be well. But it’s not going to be easy, and there might come a day when sweet, sparky Susan wishes she was back in her village singing before her humble congregation.
Here’s another thought that I almost hate to utter: is it possible that bringing Susan on stage was an attempt to garner more publicity and higher ratings for the show? Something about the whole thing, while elevating my emotions, made me wonder if I wasn’t an innocent part of some kind of public relations stunt. On this point, too, I truly hope I’m wrong and that all of the amazement in that room was completely genuine.
I truly wish for the best for Susan. I’d love for her to prove me wrong like she proved that audience and the judges wrong. It would be great if she continues to soar, both through her singing and in spirit, and shows me I don’t have enough faith in the world or her. I don’t know really know her, after all, but I know the world fairly well. If anyone will prove me wrong, I’m certain it will be Susan herself.
Like many others, I’ll be watching. And I’m going to be adding in a prayer or two for Susan. I hope she gets all that she desires in life. I hope this life-changing event will continue to be a blessing to her. Even if it doesn’t turn out quite as she’d hoped, at the very least, she’s already accomplished something monumental by reminding us that the true judging of a person can only be done from the inside out. In my mind, through that, her star potential is as high as it could possibly be already.
Best of luck Susan. I do hope the world treats you gently. You deserve that much.