Like us on Facebook: Laurel v. Yanny

Friday, May 25, 2018

“And the second (greatest commandment) is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’ —Matthew 22: 39-40

This morning the news was full of the latest Internet debate. The uproar was over a recording that…depending upon your personal perception…either repeated the word “Laurel” or the word “Yanny.” People who heard one word could not hear the other and could not understand how anyone could possibly hear anything but what they heard. The media was dubbing this phenomenon the “dress for your ears” in reference to a previous puzzle in which viewers thought a dress was either gold and white or blue and black. An HLN news anchor made the comment that it is no wonder we have so many problems in our country right now when what we hear (and see) is so different.

Later in the day, my Christian radio station played a song which underscored the theme of the day: divisiveness. Mandisa’s song “Bleed the Same” says “Are you left? Are you right? Pointing fingers, taking sides…When are we gonna realize? We all bleed the same. We're more beautiful when we come together. We all bleed the same, so tell me why, tell me why, we're divided.”

Over the past couple of years, I have noticed the tendency of friends and family that I have known and loved for years to become polarized on politics and social issues. It seems we can no longer tolerate anyone who has a differing opinion. The fact is, however, that democracy works best when there is a free exchange of ideas for us to consider. Perhaps we have come to the point in our society when the availability of news and views are so pervasive that we have become overwhelmed by the options. It seems that the more options we have for information, the more restrictive we become in choosing our sources. We pick a network that we feel best reflects our opinions and yell “Fake news!” at all the others.

Businesses and organizations often advertise their cause and encourage patrons to “like us on Facebook.” My friends have posted angry words on social media telling those who disagree with them to “delete” their friendship. If we insist that people “delete” their relationship with us who disagree on politics, or gun control, or whatever hot-button issue has us riled up on any given day, soon we will be only friends with those who think just like us.

The problem is: Jesus did not call us to only love those who are “like” us. In fact, He told us even the heathen love those who love them, but Christians are called to a higher love: we are to love even our enemies. Perhaps, we will find it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable.

What did I hear when I listened to the recording that swept the Internet recently? Was it “laurel” or “yanny”? Does it matter? Linguists were quick to explain the reason why people heard different things. Essentially, folks with ears tuned to hear lower frequencies pick out 'laurel,' while those trained for higher ones hear 'yanny.' Plus, the low-quality recording and variety in headphone or speaker quality warps the audio even further for each listener.

Maybe the fact that we see and hear things differently can be celebrated as part of the remarkable diversity in God’s creation rather than disparaged as “wrong.” Maybe we can remember that we all “bleed the same” and not everyone who we call “friend” needs to be totally like us on Facebook.