The Way We Listen
Listen, listen, listen…!
When I say these words (and I say them often) during lively tête-à-têtes, I say them together quickly - Kinda like Joe Pesci in Lethal Weapon, when he says, ‘ok, ok, ok,’ - I say, Listen, listen, listen.
This happens when I realize something ‘very important’ needs to be said, and I will sidebar the entire conversation in-order-to place ‘correct’ meaning and understanding to the whole exchange - So I can share what I need to share, and then you’ll know what I need you to know, and life will be good, and you will know and understand then. Life according to me. Sometimes I think the whole world will stop turning unless I get it out and you hear me, so it’s imperative you - listen, listen, listen.
Ok, ok, ok, it might also be due to a touch of self-diagnosed OCD and my daily caffeine consumption that creates this need, but either way, just listen, listen, listen.
So, while thinking about this directive/instruction I helplessly place and press upon people (often, and who love me anyway, thank God!) from time to time - I remembered something I learned while teaching a 6th grade CCD class (religious education), where I co-host a Seder supper every spring, with an amazing educator and gifted storyteller, Miss Carolyn. I learn so much during these classes teach. In fact, it’s where all my best learning happens when I try to teach something.
During Seder Supper, the story of Moses and the Exodus is retold. Before the re-telling of the story, we are reminded of different ways we listen to a story, and then I ask the students to pay attention to our listening ways. It leads to grand discussion and then we feast on the story of Moses, bitter herbs, Matza and grape juice. It’s fabulous.
So how do we - Listen, listen, listen…?
Do we listen as …
The Wise Person? The wise person asks for meaning, searches for truth, studies, ask questions, helps and shows respect. The wise person questions with curiosity and interest and questions are answered with enthusiasm and detailed explanation relating to community, faith, and freedom, and the call for justice and righteousness.
The Wicked Person? The wicked person points fingers. He/She divides and conquers by othering and excluding. The division starts in a neglected heart. Fingers are pointed at the ‘you’ rather than inward at the ‘me’ which is key to finding the ‘we’ in it all. The wicked person compartmentalizes and misunderstands, is fearful and lashes out. The spirit is rejected, and therefore this person misses the point entirely in the questions and the answers.
The Simple Person? The simple person is just that, simple, taking things at face value, nothing more, nothing less.
The Child? This person does not yet know the questions to ask, is shy, embarrassed and moves away to hide, to blend into the shadows.
When I present this to the students, I place myself in all of them, with real-life examples of how I listened wisely, wickedly, simply and childlike. How my goal is to be wise, but I fail miserably at times and keep trying. Or sometimes I need to listen as a Child because I don’t know anything yet about the subject, so I need to be patient with myself and try not to hide in my not knowing.
The conversation is lively and the revelation I find most interesting is that it is not so much age, but an experience that fosters the way we listen. For sure, age and experience go hand in hand, but there are many experiences we are thrown into, that are not age appropriate, or should not know at any age. And there are experiences we should have already had at advanced ages, but never had the opportunity because they were not available to us, or we rejected them for one reason or another.
I suppose that is why we need to keep telling and celebrating the story, to offer opportunity and more chances to hear with different ears each time it is presented, so the story can filter through another layer of experience as we continue on in the story of us.
The more we listen, the more opportunity there is for the Divine to be revealed when the story is shared. It’s the one constant thing we can count on, the story. The story doesn’t change, but the way we listen to it does, as we grow and open our hearts and minds to the spirit that lives inside it.
Our story imposes, supposes, and deposes upon others, because that’s what story does and is supposed to do, all the way from the story of Moses and before, to infinity and beyond, and to the here and now of us.
Us, in all our glory, in all our failings, in all our simple and unconsciousness ways, as we keep moving forward with the story that has been told thousands of times before, all over the world, in different languages, different ages, and different books. The common thread is always there for the revealing, depending on how we listen to it.
When we find ourselves in the story - that is when we know we are becoming better listeners to and tellers of the story, in all its wild audacity.
Listen, listen, listen…