The Shape of Sound


My son Zeb came across an amazing discovery at the ripe old age of four. “Dad, did you know that God created the whole world just by saying something?” I assured him that I was familiar with this, but he pressed on with a bit more analysis, “It’s actually pretty hard to do…”

He then went on to make verbal proclamations in the car, none of which resulted in any activity including his final declaration, “Let there be dark!” Despite his earnest attempt, the sun remained shining, and so I asked if I could give it a try. We discovered that my louder, deeper voice was still incapable of shifting anything in the car, much less beyond into the galaxies. Apparently, we aren’t God.

I came across a TED talk on a fairly undeveloped scientific field called Cymatics. The idea is through sound waves and vibrations, you can actually order random, formless matter into shapes and figures. Cymatics is often observed best by putting sand on a metal plate, vibrating the plate with sound to form geometric forms and patterns. It is truly fascinating to watch! You can see disorder move toward order through sound. (Works with water and fire too… sound can affect all elements.)

In the Ted Talk, Evan Grant begins with the observation that “Everything gives out some kind of data.” He goes on to say that we may not see all the data we are experiencing or receiving. I think he is correct. There are a lot of things vying for our attention, our energy and our resources. Which sounds are around us? Which ones are shaping us? In the work in our cities, what sounds are we projecting into the community? Is it bringing life? Distorting it? Causing division or unity? What sound is forming us?

In our default way of thinking, this may seem like a challenge to “do better,” “try harder,” “think positively” or something along those lines. Zeb and I, however, realized that we were not actually capable of producing life in our own sound waves… no matter how earnest, or how loudly we tried. It may be that the One who designed the heavens and breathed life may be the ONLY sound capable of producing true order and formation that agrees with the designers purpose. How then are we formed by his voice? How can we, as networks of churches in the greater Seattle area show our communities what it looks like to be a people formed not by the latest hashtag or social-justice trend, but by the living God? This is our challenge, and I think it is best observed when, like those thousands of grains of sand, we are attentive to the voice of the Lord. Our obedience to Him forms a unified shape, spirit and purpose that will be our best witness in a world marked by self-centered confusion, disunity with one another and hopelessness.

We may take to heart Jesus’ form of listening to the sounds of the Father in John 5:19 “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”

Chris Gough

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