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Outlooks from the Inner Life

We’re all instruments that need tuning

By Cedric Speyer


“We are not here to see through each other, but to see each other through.” — Gloria Vanderbilt

“I must be capable of looking at you,
not through barriers, screens of my prejudices and conditioning.
I must be in communion with you,
which means I must love you.” — J. Krishnamurti

There’s a beautiful word for the “how to” of having a good influence on people: attunement. Given the grace, there are those who hold the tuning fork that sounds the keynote in our soul.

Some have the blessing of parents who see themselves as stewards of little persons beholden to their creator, not creators and moulders of offspring formed in their own image. Others are attuned to their true nature by teachers, coaches, mentors, healers, and guides.

We are all instruments needing to be tuned up for our unique part in the symphony of life. When studies on parenting say the main way that kids learn is from example, that’s just one form of influence. At a deeper level, there’s a frequency and wavelength children register, for better or for worse.

On the dark side, bad influences can lead to the “defilement” of souls otherwise predisposed to an indwelling purity. Yet where there’s a divine conductor (in life as in physics) someone will be there (sometimes in disguise) who “knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you’ve forgotten the words.” Such music provides not just not just words and sound, but light and growth and ground.

Conversion of the heart through attunement is the theme of Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886), a children’s novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Since it popularized my first name at the time, perhaps it was unconsciously chosen by my parents to serve as vocational inspiration for my contributions to the field of positive psychology. Cedric Errol is an eight-year-old boy living with his widowed mother in a poor but happy lower-class Manhattan district when it’s suddenly discovered that he’s the heir of his grandfather, the Earl of Dorincourt in England. Cedric’s mother consents to move there so that Cedric can inherit the vast estate, in spite of her having to live in a house nearby rather than in the castle with her son.

The Earl, previously estranged from his daughter due to his disapproval of her marriage, proves to be a miserly, bitter old man hated by almost everyone who knows him. But from the beginning, Cedric knows only the good in him. He acts “as if” his grandfather would never treat his tenants poorly, and when Cedric extends compassion to the villagers himself, he gives all the credit to his grandfather’s wishes. In the end the old man comes to love the pure-hearted boy so much that he wants to live up to this new image of himself.

Attunement happens whenever we enter into a deeper relatedness that redeems us, whether that be with children, animals, rivers, poems, books, movies, therapists, sport heroes, or even theologians! There’s also the religious recalibrating of our soul’s song lines when we are attuned by psalms, hymns, liturgy and ritual. Attunement isn’t an end in itself. It’s the way we are loved into living out the goodness, truth, and beauty already within us.

Speyer is a Benedictine Oblate as well as an author, subject matter expert for e-therapy, clinical consultant and director of InnerView Guidance International (IGI).


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