My Pentecost 155
My Proverbs 5
Can You Hear Me Now?
Yesterday we talked about the potential to hear, based upon our listening. A popular cell phone advertisement for the past decade asked the question “Can you hear me now?” In a collection of books that tends to be male-dominant, the Book of Proverbs applies equal weight to the wisdom of the “mother” as to that of the “father”. It contrasts the attraction of the immoral with the moral, both illustrated by women. Some have used this in denigrating women and their abilities but I believe it is to illustrate two central teachings. One is that Proverbs is based upon the wisdom, the teachings, and the learning of the family unit. Second, we truly are all part of the family of mankind, children of the Great One who created all.
Knowing what to hear, what to pay heed to or listen to is the tricky part. What is impurity? What leads to infidelity? What is intelligent? What is the right instruction? Why do we not listen with our whole beings to the wisdom of the ages?
Those who view life as a competition tend to listen poorly. Giving ear to another is seen as losing since the other person will have dominated the few seconds or minutes it took them to express their thoughts. Life is not a race but a pace. We are not here for the sprint of being in the moment but for the marathon of living, a living which combines a series of moments of value. Many view listening as a power struggle, preferring instead to dominate the conversation, hearing only their own voice.
Often the modern trend is to respond to what one has heard with sarcasm. Thinking it funny, these people instead reply with contemptuous comments, sarcastic feeble attempts at humor. This leads to problematic behavior by the speaker as the listener’s responses are seen as condescending. Thus the listener has not been clever but self-defeating. Real communication is a two-way street and sarcasm puts up one huge roadblock when used.
Ego often enters into the listening process. Some people feel their role in life is to dominate. Failure to validate another’s feelings is foolish and lessens the dignity of all. Similarly, those who feel emotionally affected by what they have heard might be embarrassed and just stop hearing, refuse to further listen. They may think they are controlling the situation but in reality they have just made the speaker feel worthless. Some view what they hear as another person complaining. Often we need to discuss what life has thrown our way and it will not all be good. Emotions are our body’s response to life. While some like anger need to be controlled, disregarding or abandoning another is not control; it is being a coward.
Communication is not just the exchange of ideas or facts. It is discussing those facts, their affects on persons and nature, the consequences, the rewards. Communication is connecting, not a recitation of scientific data. One man’s rational thinking might be another’s maze of jumbled thoughts. However, it is through the effort of hearing and listening that we sort through and find our way to togetherness.
The world is full of problems and those need to be discussed, heard, and resolved. That is a fact that cannot be disputed. However, the world is also full of millions of things to laugh about, cry together about, console and comfort, explore and enjoy. There is a time for problem solving but also a time for listening.
Stephen Covey once said: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand. They listen with the intent to reply.” We often are so busy formulating our response we haven’t heard what is being said. In fact, we are deciding how to answer that which we have not heard. Alfred Brendel noted: “The word LISTEN contains the same letters as the word SILENT.” We should not discount what a person is about to offer or say just because we feel them lesser or unworthy of our time. Quoting an old American proverb from colonial times: “A crooked cornstalk can have a straight ear.” We can learn from anyone if we would but listen.
“Long before I wrote stories, I listened for stories. Listening for them is something more acute than listening to them. I suppose it’s an early form of participation in what goes on. Listening children know stories are there. When their elders sit and begin, children are just waiting and hoping for one to come out, like a mouse from its hole.” This is how the award-winning author Eudora Welty once described her ability as a writer. We need to remember that we are children of the universe and hear what it has to teach us. We need to learn to listen to the stories of life that are all around us which will embolden and improve our own paths of living.
Leo Buscaglia summed it up nicely: “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” The wisdom that comes from learning begins with listening, hearing that which is all around us and then using it as our guide for a better world and life for all.
My Proverb 5
The eyes will see where the path might lead if the ears are open the potential of our being. What the eyes see and the ear hear, though, are nothing unless we listen with our hearts.