Saturday, April 18, 2009

Thoughts about Susan Boyle

The extraordinary success of Susan Boyle shows two things, seemingly contradictory, but in the end very gratifying about human nature.

People were surprised that someone who looks like Susan Boyle could have such a beautiful voice. This shows the initial shallowness that just about every one of us suffers from in one way or another: we tend to discount people who are not physically attractive. In that sense, we are no older, emotionally, than when we were nine or ten years old.

But the speed with which everyone recognized the beautiful talent of Susan Boyle shows that we also have more depth than meets the eye: we are excited, thrilled, to see that physical beauty is indeed only skin deep, and that you can't judge a book by its cover. What starts out as curiosity, driving more than 30 million people to YouTube, at this count, quickly transforms into a satisfaction, a deep delight, that someone so unexpectedly can have such a wonderful, joyous voice. We are pleased to our core to find that there are far more important things than what we look like, and that in fact visual image can be totally irrelevant to some of the best things in life. We feel good about discovering that, because deep down we already knew it.

Susan Boyle's success speaks to the deepest and best parts of our human natures. It also speaks to the continually growing power of social media and the Internet. There was once was a time, not that long ago, when a extraordinary event such as Susan Boyle's performance would be difficult or impossible to see and hear, if you didn't catch it the first time around on television. Nowadays, far more people are seeing the event on YouTube than saw it in the first place.

Susan Boyle will likely win the talent contest, but even if she doesn't she'll sell millions of records and have a spectacular career, and all of us will have won as well. She looks like the Statue of Liberty on that stage, a figure from another century, and has a voice for the ages that frees something very real and ever resident in the human spirit.

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