HIgh Fidelity

David Mansfield

My high school headmaster was a man to be feared. He ruled the school with an iron fist.

Aloof for much of the time, but every once in a while another side of him would emerge. He strode into our classroom one day without prior warning, picked up a piece of chalk from the blackboard ledge and wrote, in big bold letters blazoned across the entire length of the wall-size board:


He turned to the class and barked, “Discuss.”

I was about 13 at the time. His grand entry had made an impression and had certainly livened up an otherwise boring lesson. We were all pretty dumbstruck. Fidelity wasn’t really part of a typical thirteen-year-old vocabulary. Nor was infidelity, for that matter. Even in my perverted hero-world of bandits, bushrangers, buccaneers and other assortment of bad guys, I had never heard of or read about infidels 

Silence on our part required a bit more coaxing on Jack’s part. But the sly ol’ fox was up to the challenge. We may have been his bunnies but not his guinea pigs.

“How many of you have record players?” he asked, presuming that there were a privileged few of us, whose parents were on top of their mortgage payments and technology, had graduated from gramophones.

This was the early sixties, a time when the intrusion of technology into a typical teenagers bedroom consisted of a light bulb, except for the geeks who played with crystal sets. 

I was one of this privileged few who reluctantly raised their right hand. In those days you had to raise your right hand even if you weren’t. 

“So how many of you have seen the words on your record player, “High Fidelity?” Aha, a clue. I reluctantly raised my right hand a second time, now being one of the privileged few of the privileged few. But even though my parents had just bought a brand, spanking new, high fidelity record player I was as much in the dark as before the interrogation.

I think he went on to talk about being true to yourself, hardworking and honest, but I may be reading all that back into a hazy moment in my high school history.

Much nearer to now and therefore clearer in my memory is the Nick Hornby book, High Fidelity, and the movie that followed by the same name. It was a story, I recall, about music, ghosts of girlfriends past, and anything but fidelity, which was exactly Hornby’s point.

More recently I have been introduced to a famous poem called, They Guy In The Glass, by Dale Winbrow. I first came across it in Wayne Bennett’s book Don’t Die With The Music In You. Bennett quoted it by its false title The Man In The Glass.

Upon further research, I discovered that, not only have some people change the original name for the poem, and changed some of its words, but some impostors have falsely claimed authorship for the original work. Curious, that a poem about integrity would be the subject of fraudulent claims to authorship.

One of my daughters once had a job in a Christian bookstore. She told me that when they did the stock-take one year, the most popular piece of merchandise, the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) wristbands, was also the most commonly shoplifted piece of merchandise. Go figure!

However, for me, the most gripping challenge to fidelity is found in the lyrics of a song out of Les Miserables called, Who Am I? John Valjohn has been on the run from the law for twenty years. He learns that the policeman, Javert, has captured a man he believes to be the fugitive. Does John Valjohn fess up and forfeit his freedom or keep quiet and see an innocent man punished. He knows that integrity requires coming forward and revealing his true identity 

         If I speak, I am condemned.

         If I stay silent, I am damned.

Fidelity is many dimensional. Our minds jump to sexual fidelity. But is verbal fidelity any less important?  And what about the silent, unseen fidelity, or infidelity, in the hidden recesses of our inmost being? Or the fidelity between speech and action that Jesus saw so lacking in the leaders of his day?

Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees. I mean their hypocrisy (Luke 12:1).

Yes, even religious leadership is capable of infidelity.

Some may tell big fat porky pies. But does my speech suffer from too much spin? How do I “handle the truth?”

Others may sin with their eyes. But is my heart clean? Have my eyes wandered to wanting what is not mine to have?

Others may tread the path of personal ambition rather than real service. But are my motives in ministry beyond reproach?

Not to mention those who rant and rave about injustice, exploitation and the importance of compassion and generosity from the carefully protected borders of an upper middle class lifestyle. But am I one of those?

Or am I one of those who just don’t care. Perhaps there’s too much of that in me really? Maybe I want a bit of both camps. 

And, of course, there have been some spectacular spinouts in the area of sexual fidelity.

Are music machines our only hope for high fidelity? 

       In Jesus, we meet the One who asked, “Which of you accuses me of sin?” and watched all his   finger pointers fade away in the face of fidelity personified (John 8:46).

       In Jesus we meet the One who said, “I always do what pleases the Father.” And there wasn’t a protest to be heard in the presence of fidelity amplified (John 8:29).

       In Jesus we meet the One of whom, “No deceit was found in his mouth.” And there is a clarion call to follow in his footsteps (1 Peter 2:22).

       And in Jesus we meet the one who was wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. Upon him was the punishment for our infidelities (Isaiah 53:5).

Jesus is our only means of forgiveness and our true model of fidelity. May we always trust his forgiveness and seek to trace his footprint.