The ears have it

There were, at times, nine of us, clamoring around the kitchen table. We all had our appointed places, and we filled those chairs reliably. Often, there was a great deal of anticipation for the good meal to come. There was chatter, and prattling. Pass the bread, pass the NaCl, pass the H20. If we knew the chemical compound for something, we typically used it, in good fun.

But honestly, I don’t remember too many of the conversations we had. I’m sure there were plenty of them. I mostly remember Dad reciting poetry, or prose. A verse, or a saying. He could spin off the entire version of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” “Tis the wind and nothing more…”

I loved when he would do that. Any of that.

Oh, wouldn’t it be great to hear his voice one more time. To listen. Just listen.

Listening is one of the greatest gifts in life. Not only for ourselves, but an incredible gift we can give to others. How many times do we have conversations with people, and we are simply formulating our response in our little busy brains?

Sure, we see their lips going up and down. We notice the audibles. But it registers in our minds, as “wahhh, wah, wahhhh, wahhh, wahhh.” And we look for that one breath, that one pause, where we can jump in an declare our profound observations. We want to be heard.

Yes. Most of us want to be heard. There is nothing wrong with this. We all have our opinions and insights. Yet. I just wonder how much better things would be, all the world around, if we made “listening” our new priority.

(I was reminded, again, this morning about the phrase, “We’ve always done it this way. That’s why.” I bet this phrase would die away, if people listened more.)

Listening is truly a gift. In every way. Not only listening to people, but truly tuning in to the other sounds in our lives. There are some really good ones.

When we were little, we used to go out to a nature preserve, called Aullwood Farm, on some Saturday mornings. I can remember being in the bird watching area. They had those deals where the microphones were outside, and the speakers were inside with us. There were a lot of birds coming and going at the feeders. Taking off, and landing. A flurry of busy. A young woman who worked there, took me over to the speaker, and said, “Now. Listen. Really listen.” And I stood quietly there, honing in on those sounds. It was like magic. It is my first memory of someone really telling me to pay attention to the sound. I was mesmerized by the choir of voices.

There are very good sounds, and good things to learn, all around us. If we listen.


“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”
― Ernest Hemingway


“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”
― Ralph G. Nichols


You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.”
― M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled