I’ve never stayed awake for an entire episode of Planet Earth. I love the show and actually own it and view it often, but something about it makes me feel drowsy. The music is calm and soothing; the nature sounds are soporific. I think more than anything it’s the voiceover that does it to me. The intrinsic sultry sound and alluring British intonation completely subdue my consciousness.
I wish I could carry people off to sleep with my voice. But as far as I know, David Attenborough is the only one who can do this.
I could listen to David all day. He has a way of making beasts tearing each other apart seem like a dance. The gazelles bound across the plain. The lion pride stalks around them in rhythm, and the chase builds to a poetic climax of bloody carnage. Only David could make this sound beautiful.
There is power in that voice. A steady, commanding tone, a seemingly effortless inflection, rhythm so soothing others couldn’t help but listen. It’s like a superpower—one I wish I owned. Some want to fly, others to have super strength. I want to croon.
But my voice isn’t quite like that. My speech is generally smooth. Sure, it’s higher than Morgan Freeman’s and not quite the syrupy smooth of James Earl Jones. Sean Connery boasts a sexy brogue, but not me. I’m from the Midwest, and my accent isn’t sexy at all. Somewhere in the moment required to vocalize a short A, the ends of my mouth elongate and sag, my jaw unhinges like a snake’s, and my soft palate goes crashing down into my larynx, forcing all speech to clatter callously through my nasal passage. It’s a curse most all Midwesterners live with, and I’m all too aware of it.
My father-in-law likes to say he would pay to hear James Earl Jones read the phonebook. Who would pay to hear me read anything?
I have worked hard to become a proficient public speaker. I even teach speech and performance techniques. I know how to use volume, pace, intonation, and articulation in order to emphasize points. But I can’t change my voice. I’ve tried. I imitate speakers. I sing. I ooh and aww and yawn like a hippo and make loon noises and apply all of those other strange exercises. All are good for the voice, but none will change it. I will never be a mockingbird. Only a hyena.
God must own a powerful voice. Many of the Bible’s authors share the incredible authority God demonstrates just through speaking. In Psalm 33:6 David says, “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth,” and later in verse 9, “For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.” Imagine being able to speak a universe into being, to manipulate the particles of space and time with a breath. I find it both powerful and poetic. Certainly none other could have a voice as powerful as that—not even David Attenborough.
Laura (Bardolph) Hubers (’10) is wife to Matt, mother to Samuel, and copywriter at Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. She counts the day the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 World Series as one of the happiest of her life.
Matt Hubers (’12) lives with his wife, Laura, and young son, Samuel. He likes to spend his time playing board games, coaching high school forensics, and frolicking with alpacas. His dream is to write picture books.