A long time ago, when I was just a high school boy, a special assembly was held at my school. The legendary conductor of the Utah Symphony was there. Maurice Abravenel held a workshop with our High School orchestra and they were going to perform for us.
They went about the normal tuning and prep before the performance. Then the conductor came onto the stage to respectful applause. He moved his score around, picked up his baton, tapped on his music stand and began. Within the first 10 seconds he waved off the musicians, telling them to stop playing. Everyone got quiet. Almost everyone.
Mr. Abravenel turned around and stared down some kids in the auditorium. It was one of the greatest “stink-eyes” I had ever seen. The room fell silent. After a moment of glaring he turned around and lifted the baton and resumed.
A few minutes into the piece it happened again. This time Abravenel turned around and gave a glare that was even beyond the previous stink-eye. It was a Death Glare. (One I have since tried to master.) Apparently, even while the music was being played, he could still hear people in the audience talking. He then launched into a serious lecture on concert etiquette, and plain old manners. You don’t talk until the conductor puts down the baton. You don’t whistle or cheer. The only acceptable response to an orchestra concert is applause – no shouting, no whistling, etc. After he was finished, he lifted the baton again.
You could have heard a pin drop. The rest of the performance went off well, with a quiet, respectful audience.
That memory, along with few experiences got me thinking:
1) Last Tuesday I went to the High School choir concert where my son was performing. After each song, or when a different group took the stage to perform, there were a few people yelling kids names to get their attention, giving them shout outs, etc. Other people didn’t wait until a break between songs – they just talked right through.
After a few numbers, one of the conductors took a microphone and kindly reviewed the same concert etiquette – which brought back the Abravenel story to my mind. He asked us to stop talking and only applaud. He was gentle, but serious, and if you have ever heard the quality of the Highland High choirs, you would know that this is serious business.
Now some will be saying, “Kids will be kids.” But here is where it gets different from my experience in High School. When the choir conductor turned around, the cat calls resumed almost immediately. At the end of the very next song people were shouting names and whistling – completely ignoring the request form the conductor.
And here’s the kicker: It wasn’t just kids. It was kids and friends and parents and family members. (And if you want to see people ignore repeated requests for decorum, just attend a high school graduation ceremony.) Yes, we have generation bad manners in play.
2) Later that night, I fired up the DVR and watched the Vice Presidential debate. I watched as one man, vying to be the Vice President of the United States interrupt another candidate 72 times. 72! What kind of person does that? The two candidates ended up interrupting and talking over each other so many times that it just became noise.
3) My EC and I went to a movie the other day. Great seats, smack dab in the middle. But, right in front there was a teenage girl who felt compelled to be on her smartphone during much of the movie. A couple of people asked her to turn it off, which – to her credit – she eventually did.
4) An older one: My EC and I saw Marry Poppins on Broadway. It is expensive +$100 a seat. During the show the people all around us talked to each other non-stop. I shushed a couple of times. They were even unresponsive to the usher. That is my main memory of that show? A row full of Russian tourists talking though the whole show.
5) I watch the presidential election. It pains me to see the two front-runners and their flunkies blatantly lie, smirk, point fingers, and bring a coarseness to the process that we haven’t seen before. That behavior is also embraced by their supporters. Instead of discussing issues, they lie, spin, and shout down anyone with an opposing view. No one in this game is innocent.
As I was thinking about this, a scripture came to mind. It was written by Paul to Timothy.
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. Men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; (2 Timothy 3:1-4)
Wow. If that does not describe our current situation, I don’t know what does. Paul saw our day.
Thinking about people in theaters and politics, I would like to focus on two of the many traits Paul prophesied would be in play in the last days:
• lovers of their own selves
• incontinent (No, I don’t mean someone in need of Depends, I mean the definition that says “lacking self-restraint or uncontrollable.)
Why does a person feel the need to talk or look at a phone during a movie, even though it impacts the other people surrounding them? Because they are lovers of their own selves. It is a function of pride. It is essentially saying, “Hey, I know you came to enjoy the show, but I want to chat with my friend, and what I want is far more important that what the other 500 of your want. And I am just too important to go out to the lobby to do it.”
Why does a person interrupt another? (Even 72 times?) “Because what I have to say is more important, correct, helpful, than anything you have to say. What you have to say doesn’t matter as much as what I have to say, so shut up so these lucky people can bask in my greatness.”
Paul got this right. Much of what we suffer with now days is a result of people being so in love that nobody else matters. They are in love themselves and the sound of their own voices. And if you don’t agree with their rants, well then you must be stupid, wrong, or irredeemable.
The other word, incontinent, carries a little different meaning – it implies an inability to just plain control ourselves. And man, have we seen a lot of that lately. A cellphone in a movie might be narcissistic, or it might be an addiction. People shouting in a concert after being warned is narcissistic, unless you have a blurting or Turrets syndrome – then it is an issue of involuntary incontinence, not choice.
Personally, I don’t think it is possible for anyone to stand up and claim that they are qualified to be President of the USA without having deep narcissistic tendencies, because nobody is honestly up to that task.
Paul prophesied the coarseness in our times, but he is well supported by modern-day and other ancient prophets.
Today, our young people see such vulgarity in word and deed from boys and girls in their grade schools, from actors on stage and in the movies, from popular novels, and even from public officials and sports heroes. Television and videos bring profanity and vulgarity into our homes. Parents? Where are we on this issue? Do we support and enable it? Do we set a bad example? Are you one of those incontinent people who just can’t refrain from shouting in a choir concert?
“For many in our day, the profane has become commonplace and the vulgar has become acceptable. Surely this is one fulfillment of the Book of Mormon prophecy that in the last days “there shall be great pollutions upon the face of the earth.” (Morm. 8:31.) (Elder Dallin H. Oaks.)
“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:29–30).
“Vulgarity is an expression of arrested development in matters of good taste or good character. Vulgarity weakens the mind, and thus brings all other weakness in its train. It is vulgar to like poor music, to read weak books, to feed on sensational newspapers, or debasing TV, to find amusement in trashy novels, to enjoy vulgar theatres, to find pleasure in cheap jokes, to tolerate coarseness and looseness in any of its myriad form.” (L. Tom Perry)
I know everyone would jump to vulgarity as spoken thing, however it is wise to realize that many vulgar things are carried our by people claiming to be above vulgarity. (i.e. abortion, violent protests, etc.) So, tonight, we have a second opportunity to watch two “lovers of their own selves” stand before us and tell us why they are capable of saving our Nation – all while asking us to overlook their corruption, vulgarity, immorality, dishonesty and decency.
Sadly, I truly believe that we, as a collective nation, are reaping what we have sewn. The two candidates are a reflection of what our society has become. Our country is a vulgar place. “When Game of Thrones” is hugely successful and the most heavily awarded show on television, and a book like “50 Shades of Gray” can sell 100 million copies, we have lost any moral high ground to demand better in our leaders. They are a reflection of what our society permits and even rewards. A society that is gradually pulling away from all things theological – even church attendance – should not expect to find servants who would embrace a higher path than the road the majority of the public is on.
Mosiah “did he say that if the time should come that the voice of this people should choose iniquity, that is, if the time should come that this people should fall into transgression, they would be ripe for destruction.” (Alma 10:19) That should give all of us some goosebumps.
I don’t want to sound all gloom and doom, because I am not a gloom and doomer. I am a happy person. It is impossible to watch General Conference last week and not find joy and hope. It is available to all of us. At the end of the day, we are responsible for our own happiness. You want joy? Go get it – it is there waiting for you – it is attainable! On the other hand, if we find ourselves unhappy, offended, or in contention one with another over something like an election, remember that it is by choice, and the only real winer is Satan.
“For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.” (3 Nephi 11:29)
If you choose to watch the election (which I will do), we get to watch two corrupt, vulgar people stand up and explain why they are so wonderful in their own incontinent manner. If it is driving you crazy, find some solace in knowing that it is exactly how the Apostle Paul said it would be, and find comfort in knowing that things are on track. (Yes, folks, Jesus IS coming, but probably no until after the election.)
On a more personal note, this whole discussion causes me to pull up short and question what traits and behaviors I have that could be spawned by my own narcissism. Famous people aren’t the only ones who struggle with ego.
“There is no place for arrogance or egotism on the part of any of us. The Lord in revelation has said, “Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers” (D&C 112:10). I believe that. I hope you do also.” (Spencer W. Kimball)
If you sen’t sure what arrogance and unbridled egotism looks like, just listen to anyone who thinks he/she is capable of running this country.
And please, if you are attending a movie or a concert, please keep it down, and put the phone away.
Recommended reading: “Joy and Spiritual Survival,” President Russell M. Nelson. (Just last week) (link)
PS: No political comments on this one – I won’t post them. My blog, my rules.
And a final treat, lyrics from the song “Loud” from the Matilda the Musical:
Somewhere along the way, my dear
You’ve made an awful error.
You oughtn’t blame yourself now
You seem to think that people
like people that are clever.
It’s very quaint, it’s very sweet
People don’t like smarty-pants
What go round claiming
that they know stuff
we don’t know.
Now, here’s a tip:
What you know matters less
Than the volume with which
What you don’t know’s expressed!
Content, has never been less important.
So you have got to be…