Vanity Fair

I told my friends and family I was going to the zoo.  It wasn’t far from the truth.

The thing is, I didn’t see any animals while there.  Zoos are enjoyable places to visit.  They’re not always placid and quiet, but at least all the inhabitants are barricaded behind bars or trenches to prevent close contact with the visitors.

I’m thinking this was different.  Perhaps not a zoo, but more like a carnival.  That would fit the experience better.  The denizens of that exhibition are all human, or reasonably so.  They coax and cajole, shout and seduce every passerby they see–all so they can gain access to one thing:  The contents of their wallets.

And so it was that I entered the midway of the music trade show.  Having attended one such event before, I was prepared–well, I thought I was prepared. 

I knew that the huge hall held many attractions, each one more tempting than the last.  The noise level would confuse and distract.  The displays and those hawking the merchandise would seek to ensnare me with their beauty and skill.

Hearing protection was plugged firmly into the ears.  My rejection messages were rehearsed and memorized.  I would take care of the business I had come to transact and nothing more.  No pied piper, no shiny bauble, would entrap me.  No tattooed ladies, and certainly no fast-talking carny would sway me from my earnest resolve.

For hours, I wandered the aisles, overwhelmed by the attractions.  I dawdled at the light shows and listened, enthralled, to the divas.  When I tore myself away from the musicians, the glossy instruments stole my attention. 

If I could just run my hand along that fingerboard…

Perhaps, just a note through that mouthpiece…

It was hours later when I escaped the hall of commotion.  I hope I achieved what I went in for.  I can’t remember.  My mind was awhirl, spinning with the effects of the noise and confusion.


I stood outside the doors like a man just awakening from an uneasy night of dreams.  Then I heard it.

After the raucous distraction of the great hall, it took a moment for the sound to register.  But no, I had indeed heard them–the sweet notes of a piano.  Just a piano.  No drums, no screaming guitars, no thumping bass.  The pure, quiet notes of one person skillfully manipulating the black and white keys.

mindwashedcleanI followed the sound and came around a corner to see a young man sitting at a grand piano.  He was playing, of all things, a beautiful rendition of “The Lord’s Prayer”.

I stood transfixed.  This was no carnival sideshow, no sleight-of-hand act.  Here was pure beauty and clarity.

The melody and harmony washed over me, erasing all the commotion and confusion of the hours preceding.  I can’t explain it, but I actually felt the music cleanse away the effects of the carnival atmosphere.  When he finished playing, with a clear mind and renewed energy I went on my way.

I wonder if we have any idea how often a similar scenario is played out in our everyday lives.  We live in a great big midway, a carnival of a world, complete with hawkers and sideshows.  Everywhere we look, something or someone else is vying for attention, ready to promise anything we desire.

Is it any wonder we fail in our resolve so often?  Marriages are torn apart because a spouse is seduced by the siren song of a more desirable partner.  Students fail in their quest for education because partying is more cool and thrilling.  Politicians head for positions with good intentions and are sidetracked by temptations and offers of power and wealth.

The carnival is in full swing and the carneys are in fine voice, no matter our resolve–no matter our mission.

Sometimes though–sometimes–all it takes is for us to walk away from the midway and stand still.  The mission placed in our hearts long ago by God is still intact, if only we come away from the commotion.

I can’t help but think about the Old Testament prophet, Elijah, as he prepared to listen to God.  The wild wind blew.  No God there.  The earthquake shattered the ground.  Not there, either.  Fire?  Still no God to be found.

After all the commotion, there was a quiet, diminutive voice.  The prophet listened, hearing finally the word and power of his God.

The longer I live, the less I like the commotion and aimless activity of the world around.  I’m learning to separate the sense of importance and urgency from the reality of reaching goals.

In the quiet moments we find renewed focus.  Apart from the attention grabbing crowds, we regain the awareness of our mission.

I’m listening.  Again.





“…the Lord was not in the wind.  After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.  And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.”
(1 Kings 19: 11b, 12 ~ NLT)


“In the stillness I find my heart growing hot while I seek the person I have already found.  God is so much more than I know.”
(Eric Samuel Timm ~ American artist/author )



© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved.

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