Hearing can be an active pursuit

Bird Droppings April 27, 2010
Hearing can be an active pursuit

Walking out into a moon lit morning listening to owls and whippoorwills calling through the stillness is something for me of a humbling nature. With a slight chill in the air the past few mornings crickets and tree frogs have been silent and as my dog sniffs actively around clumps of grass and the edges of our porch just a few yards away a stand of young pines so thick even during daytime you can only see a few feet in calls haunting and at times almost ear piercing from various night creatures break the silence. If I was a normal person perhaps I would be fearful of the dark and the calls literally echoing along the dirt road beside our house but each for me has meaning as the hunter’s stalk the night, owls hunting for mice and rats and whippoorwills trying to find a mate. It is in the listening and or not listening that we find fear and or wonder.

“Patience is also a form of action.” Auguste Rodin

I read this yesterday and was impressed. Many the days I am told I have patience and it hit me as I thought. Many people think of patience as simply being calm and collected, it takes work and effort. Rodin is correct and what a better person than a sculptor to offer these words. A piece of stone ever so slowly becomes a figure or work of art. It takes patience to chip away and sand, the artist polishes and re-polishes the surface till the final piece of art is revealed. As a teacher I have found my own niche and that is of listening.

“The first duty of love is to listen.” Paul Tillich

It has been a few years since I first was exposed to this great theologian’s writings. Actually it was in a class comparing Paul Tillich to Karl Barth another great theologian. The key word looking back on Tillich’s quote is to listen. A day or two ago I made a set of paper cup phones with a string between, a common toy so many years ago. Nowadays with everyone carrying a cell phone the idea of a string phone is literally redundant. But to many students amazement they worked. It is a great physical science experiment and activity for any age including me. Such a simple way to show how sound travels. One catch is you have to listen and carefully. If only we would focus our listening in real life as we did when we played with the string phones.

“Listen. Don’t explain or justify.” William G. Dyer

“No one every listened themselves out of a job.” Calvin Coolidge

For many listening is a lost art form. So often when talking to high school students they tend to want to tell rather than listen. As I sit here so do we as parents and also as teachers. We as adults seem little better then kids, as we tell while we want them to listen often without ever hearing or attempting to hear what they said.

“Nature gave us one tongue and two ears so we could hear twice as much as we speak.” Epictetus

It is ironic or is it poetic we have the capability of hearing twice as much and then yell to overcome that. My father used to when speaking to Spanish speaking friends and clients, he would yell and speak very slowly both in class and on the phone. I never understood but often he would be told how good his Spanish was yet beyond adios and amigo he never spoke a word of Spanish.

“One of the most valuable things we can do to heal one another is listen to each other’s stories.” Rebecca Falls

“So when you are listening to somebody, completely, attentively, then you are listening not only to the words, but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not part of it.” Jiddu Krishnamurti

It is difficult to measure the effect listening has on individuals but I have found many flock to someone who will listen and not simply talk back at them. Each day during my planning period teachers and students flock by. I used to think it was because I am cool guy. Now I know it is because I will listen. Occasionally I will offer a piece of advice but nine times out of ten the person talking will find their answer as they talk uninterrupted.

“Listening well is as powerful a means of communication and influence as to talk well.” John Marshall

“The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.” Richard Moss

I never give out my home phone number and have kept an unlisted number for many reasons. For several years the only number I give out is my cell phone. I recall when just about every day an old acquaintance would call from Texas. Back in 1999 and 2000 I worked with a number of indigent families and individuals as part of a program I started The Shepherd Staff Ministries. We would assist families in finding temporary housing, utility bills, and food stuffs. In his case literally it was daily care as he is diabetic and lost a portion of his foot due too his illness and an accident. I was not required to listen and really often would choose to hang up. I had considered a new cell number. But as he says every time he called he had no one else to talk to, or who would listen.

“To be listened to is, generally speaking, a nearly unique experience for most people. It is enormously stimulating. It is small wonder that people who have been demanding all their lives to be heard so often fall speechless when confronted with one who gravely agrees to lend an ear. Man clamors for the freedom to express himself and for knowing that he counts. But once offered these conditions, he becomes frightened.” Robert C. Murphy

Yesterday as I ate lunch with several friends in my room at school, numerous people came by students, teachers, old friends, some new friends and all wanting someone to listen to them. I have students who just come by; former students who email diligently even about a sick gerbil needing help. It is an amazing thing this power of listening. Listening too is the basis for patience.

“A good listener tries to understand what the other person is saying. In the end he may disagree sharply, but because he disagrees, he wants to know exactly what it is he is disagreeing with.” Kenneth Wells

“There is only one rule to become a good talker, learn how to listen.” Source Unknown

Daily I meet people who do not want to listen who and subsist on simply hearing and even there selectively. They only have select words and thoughts that they will even pay attention to and go from conversation to conversation in total deafness other than their closed little world. I read a passage from a friend yesterday that struck me. “How interesting that someone can be pro-life and vow to kill all the terrorists, perhaps it is only poetic justice” But in all serious matters at hand, please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

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