December 13, 2015

Dame Folly, Lady Wisdom and My Tinnitus

There’s a ringing in my years.  And it’s not Christmas bells.  I’ve always had a little bit of tinnitus, but recently, after a particularly gruelling 10km track race, it got loud, and stayed loud.  Five loud weeks.  That it’s been accompanied by terrible vertigo and nausea has made life slightly unpleasant.

 Unpleasant enough to the point that I will try just about anything to make it stop, including going back to the scene of the crime, and running 10km around the race track the opposite way to see if it unwinds the problem (not really). You always run anti-clockwise round a racetrack for some reason, so 25 clockwise laps should just about do it.


I’m seeing a specialist at the start of February about the vertigo/nausea, but since one of the hats my twin brother’s wears (and he wears a lot of hats, especially now he is here in sunny Oz) is Director of the Hearing Hub of Australia, I cut the red tape and went straight to the top to sort out the tinnitus.

Well, after he fell about laughing and told me to toughen up, (as twin brothers do) he found a great audiologist contact in Perth for me, who I went to see last week. The bottom line is that he said that my brain has stopped blocking out the noise of my tinnitus, due to tiredness or a stress event or something,  and I haven’t been able to reboot my brain to block out the ringing sound.

My tinnitus has always been there – or at least for some time.  Tinnitus is not a noise in your ears, it’s in your brain, that’s why deaf people get tinnitus.  Go figure!  I now need to find a way to get my brain to block it out again.

The good thing about not being deaf, well one of the good things anyway, is that the everyday noises of life drown out tinnitus. Cars, people, engine noise, the hum of modernity.  It’s the quiet mornings at 3am when it wakes me up – louder than ever.  Except it’s not louder than ever, it’s just that everything else is quieter than ever at 3am (apart from my seven year old who snores like a drunken sailor).

We’re going to Singapore for our holidays this Christmas – one of the louder places in which to vacate.  Better that than a remote island beach in the Caribbean – at least for my tinnitus.

So what’s that got to do with Dame Folly and Lady Wisdom?  Well, we’ve recently finished a teaching series on Proverbs 1-9, the introduction series to the whole book. Those nine chapters present us with two women – Lady Wisdom and Dame Folly.  And the question that it raises is this: Who are you going to listen to? Dame Folly or Lady Wisdom?

And here’s what we learned.  Dame Folly – the foolishness of the world (or what the world calls wisdom) is always in your ears. Dame Folly is the tinnitus of the Bible.

You don’t have to go searching for Dame Folly. Her clanging gong and noisy cymbal is right there, in your shell-likes all the time.  What you watch, what you hear, what confronts you, how the opinion pages describe life, what you drive past.  Everything. Everywhere. Dame Folly is the  24/7 wheeeeeeeeeeeeee of our lives.

So what’s the solution?  Well we could block our ears and go into sensory deprivation.  But hey, deaf people get tinnitus, remember?  So much of our folly comes from within ourselves – the stupid things we do, the foolish decisions we make, the ungodly, almost suicidal judgements and actions. (That’s also why emptying your mind in an Eastern philosophical spiritual manner doesn’t work.  You can’t get away from you, and you are an integral part of your problem!).

Is there another solution? Yes.  Listen. Listen to the voice of Lady Wisdom.  Proverbs 1-9 doesn’t simply warn us not to listen to Dame Folly, because that would be like a deaf man trying to block out tinnitus.  Lady Wisdom says listen to my voice, listen to the voice of one who offers you rich, deep, fulfilling life, rather than the cheap, sharp, babbling guffaws of what presents itself as wisdom, but is actually Dame Folly shooting her mouth off.

When Jesus came pronouncing the gospel of repentance and the kingdom he often said, “Let those with ears, hear!”. Why was that?  Was he just trying to gather a crowd like a town-crier’s “Hear ye, hear ye!”?

No. He was saying more than “Listen up!”  He was calling us to hear his words in such a way that they override the sinful tinnitus (sinnitus?) of our inner lives, and the world around us and its cute, but corrosive messages.  Hearing Jesus’ voice, listening to his words, steeping ourselves in Scripture, will, by his Spirit, reboot our brains to drown out the folly of the world.

It’s a sure bet that when we stop reading his Word, when we listen to the messages of the world more readily, when we heed their call about what is worthy, noble, exciting, brilliant etc, then we are well on track to this “sinnitus”. We are all on track to a bout of life-nausea well beyond anything I am currently experiencing.

Oh, and if the words of Lady Wisdom – God’s wise words – are being spoken to you by a faithful, loving friend, who is watching you as you pay more and more attention to Dame Folly, then, please, don’t block your ears, because Dame Folly’s tinnitus will drive you to a madness well beyond where actual tinnitus will drive you.




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There is no guarantee that Jesus will return in our desired timeframe. Yet we have no reason to be anxious, because even if the timeframe is not guaranteed, the outcome is! We don’t have to waste energy being anxious; we can put it to better use.

Stephen McAlpine – futureproof

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