So unless you live in a cave, by now you have seen and heard about the amazing “Britain’s Got Talent” appearance by a frumpy middle-aged woman named Susan Boyle. If you haven’t, immediately exit your rock dwelling, click here, and be prepared to be moved.

Susan Boyle

Susan Boyle

Susan’s rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables, was nothing short of a poignant television moment; even the skeptics have to admit that. We see a woman who appears to embody both the hopelessness and hopefulness of the human condition, take the stage as yet another unrealistic singer-wannabe, only to rapidly win over the judges and drive the audience to their feet with her soulful rendition of the gut-wrenching song.

Probably like you, I found the video deeply moving. Fine. I’ll toss out that I shed a tear. I’ll even admit that I downloaded the song on iTunes–in two versions! Yup, I’m a sap. This cat-woman’s story touched me (obviously I don’t mean she’s a superhero). But once again, being a skeptic and sap has its challenges for me.

“It was a setup,” my fellow rational thinkers were quick to point out. “It was way too perfect. Clearly Simon knew she was going to sing well, yet he pretended to be shocked.” Indeed her line about never having been kissed was shown to be “hyperbole.”

But once again, I fear we skeptics are missing the point. Sure, television producers try diligently to create moments like Susan Boyle’s. Yes, they edited the shots so as to create the greatest effect. Yes, they wanted her to appear the homely underdog, and secretly knew she could sing well. But call me a sappy skeptic because none of that changes the bittersweet and compelling nature of the story; and it is in that gut-grabbing nature that the lessons lie–even if only mythologically.

So even if press reports are wrong about her being born with minor brain damage, and being unemployed; even if her demeanor and simple kindness and respectfulness in press interviews is an Academy Award-winning performance; even if she’s a brilliant brain surgeon and who is a thespian on the side, there is a reason the video is so damned inspiring!

Read some of the words to this song about pain and suffering. Clearly this woman has experienced loss and anguish, because so have you, and so have I. Take a look:

There was a time when men were kind
When their voices were soft
And their words inviting
There was a time when love was blind
And the world was a song
And the song was exciting
There was a time
Then it all went wrong

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving
Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
And they turn your dream to shame

He slept a summer by my side
He filled my days with endless wonder
He took my childhood in his stride
But he was gone when autumn came

And still I dream he’ll come to me
That we will live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I’m living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.

     — I Dreamed a Dream, from Les Miserables

Here is what is powerful: One, the woman has been challenged in life. Two, she has not had all the advantages we would all wish for our children. Three, she has doubtlessly endured extensive ridicule for being who she is, “Susie Simple.” Four, she has a real talent. Five, she sang a song that perfectly articulated her own pain. Six, like most with talent, it appeared that it would mostly be ignored by our beauty-oriented culture. Seven, somehow she obtained an unlikely moment in the sun. Eight, those with an empathy gene and a grasp on reality know that most people–even those with talent–never get their moment in the spotlight; dreams usually die as we age. Nine, in Susan Boyle’s gigantic moment of recognition, a dream was realized and one human’s worth was affirmed.

Even if it were pure theatrics, pure myth and metaphor, that moment spoke to our own human need to be recognized and loved, and reminded us that it wouldn’t kill us to occasionally take the time to recognize and validate the talents of others.

Finally, is it possible that we “skeptics” sometimes seek our own moment in the sun through pedantically pointing out truth vs. fiction, while missing the bigger picture? In the case of Susan Boyle, I’d suggest we not miss the deeper metaphorical point about the hopelessness, and hopefulness, of our human existence.

(Stephen L. Gibson, freely circulate with citations, CC 2009, Attribution-No Derivatives; and

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