What Lies Beneath

What Lies Beneath

“…Alas, how few there are
Who strike a chord in us we knew existed
But so seldom heard its tone
We tremble at the half-forgotten sound…”
-Amy Lowell

The question seemed harmless enough – at the time.

It was the last day of class before the summer break of my sophomore year in undergrad (one of my sophomore years, anyway). I was technically four semesters into my Music major – but bass was still very much brand new (as was improv, ear training, theory, harmony, composition, orchestration, etc.).
I suspected I was making some headway, though I felt more like I was making a lot of messes in the rhythm section – and making a lot of other musicians miserable.
Just before splitting for the summer, I popped my head into the office of my college band director (who was like a third father for me in those years). He was also an expert eyewitness to all of my musical ups and downs, as I was in all of his bands (i.e. marching, jazz, pep, concert, combo, etc).
At that moment, I appeared to have his ear,
So I asked – ‘..Is there anything I should work on over the break?’

His reply?
A profanity-laced laundry list that would make most sailors I know blush.
It was a monologue offered with knee-buckling precision and no hesitation, if memory serves. I immediately knew he’d probably vented and lamented to many other ears about my bass-playing in many moments before that one.
‘…Your intonation isn’t…your sound isn’t…your rhythm isn’t…your tone ain’t…’.
And on and on and on, it seemed.
At some point, he finished – or stopped, at least.
There were a few award-winningly awkward moments of uncomfortable silence.
I gulped.
And then, fishing for a lifeline, I asked – ‘…Is there anything I’m doing that is working well..?’
It was probably as much a question for him as for me.
He paused.
He took off his glasses and began to kind of gnaw on one of the temple tips, while staring blankly into one of his office corners.
A few moments later, he looked back at me, and sighed deeply.
And with seemingly the same passion and precision he’d had just moments earlier, he said –
‘…You’ve got a lot of intuition…’.

I was struck.
Stunned enough to almost forget all the ‘cons’ that had preceded that lone ‘pro’.
The expert witness had become a character witness.

I’m intuitive??, I mused.
Before that moment, I would’ve told you that I was anything but intuitive. At least, that was the story I was telling myself in 1998.
I was practical, pragmatic, and practiced. Disciplined. Detailed. Reliable. Responsible. Logical. Critical. Analytical.
Creative, maybe… but intuitive?
Not on your life.

I was sure that if/when I found success in the world, it was through hard work and careful analysis of people, places, and things – not through my senses (certainly not my sixth sense).
And yet – my director’s gut level assessment of ‘Intuitive’ just felt too insightful to be ignored.
He had not stuttered. Nor had he hemmed and hawed his way to that conclusion. It felt evidence-based. Carefully constructed.
Intuition was what he saw in me – his reflection of my essence in motion– likely in many moments where I was unaware that he was watching.
He seemed to see beyond all of the above adjectives (which were not untrue) into some of my more muted depths.
Casting some light on a kind of dormant dharma. A major chord resonating just beneath the surface.
It was like he took an x-ray.

I processed that x-ray for a while after that conversation. I walked up close to it, examined it, squinted at it, frowned upon it, marveled at it, and eventually wrapped my head around it.
The more time passed, the more prophetic his pronouncement looked.
I can now say that his insight was one of the most significant gifts that anyone has ever given to me.
One word (‘intuitive’) opened a portal of possibilities and purpose for me.
It gave me permission to lean into my yin (which was apparently already steering the ship). I was moved to reimagine my frequency in a new fluorescent light.
What if I really was intuitive? What if I’d been intuitive all along?
Often times, the hardest person for you to see is yourself.

So, my director shed some light on the subject (me) – and on a part of my vibration that was very much alive beneath the surface, but invisible to my naked eye.
I couldn’t see it, but he could.
And the act of him bringing that x-ray to light (saying it out loud) changed my life.
Now (almost 20 years later), most people in my orbit would be surprised to learn than I ever identified as anything other than intuitive. They are struck to know that there was ever a time in my life when I didn’t lead with my sixth sense. To many, I am definitively intuitive. A poster child for the third eye.
It is usually more surprising to them that I am also disciplined, reliable, practical, etc. – enough to ably serve 8 years (and counting) in the military.
‘Squared away’, as we say.

A few years ago, my mother gifted me with a box of random things from my childhood (attic fare). Among them were a handful of report cards from my preschool, and pre-K instructors.  And their insights then were, ironically, not unlike my band director’s insights would be (20 years later) –
‘…Relational…Conversational…In Motion…Intuitive…’.
Apparently, this chord had been evident in my composition from the first downbeat of my existence.
I’d just conditioned myself to overlook it.
I’d forgotten it.

In this moment, we are fully immersed in the holiday season – a time in which many of us will gather with our loved ones (friends, family, or otherwise).
Many of us will give and receive gifts of all kinds.
I invite you to notice the hidden gifts in those around you. See the strengths they may not see (or remember) in themselves – and say it out loud.
I invite you to offer them the gift of your insight – your x-ray vision. Give someone a glimpse into an ability which may not know they are radiating. A third eye blind spot.
Offer them a reflection of their hidden or forgotten treasure. Their undiscovered country (You don’t even have to wrap it).
See the unawakened superpower in someone close to you – and speak it into existence.
You might help someone finally see themselves, and give them permission to reimagine the uncharted territory of their dharma.
You might very well change the course of a life for the better – for forever.
What better gift to give – than to give another insight into their own gifts?

Of Evident Invisibles,


One Comment

  1. Karl Branting

    Thank you Anthony! Your reflections remind me of a comment made about a friend, Ed Sherline, who teaches philosophy at the University of Wyoming, where I used to be. The comment was, “Whenever I talk to Ed, he makes me feel like I’ve just said something very profound.” I thought, what a gift, to be able to help others recognize their own profundity. There are depths in each of us that we can see only if pointed out by an insightful mentor, teacher, or friend. How rewarding and important to try to be that person who helps another see those depths.

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