Michiana Chronicles: Listening

Jun 11, 2020

A person is silhouetted against a reflection on the water while fishing at Clinton Reservoir on Sunday, April 26, 2020, near Lawrence, Kan. Fishing and hunting were still allowed as the state was under stay-at-home orders in an attempt to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Credit (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

It’s 2 am and I wake from the depths of my dreams. I am startled awake and I listen. Is there someone else awake? Did I hear something outside? I sit. I listen. The silence slowly fills with subtle anxieties of my day. Did a bill get paid, are my kids doing well, did I remember to turn off the basement lights? After the mundane anxieties are exhausted, I think about my life. Twenty years ago I should have sold my belongings and traveled the country selling scarves. I should have taken the time to read Moby Dick. I should have learned my geography, studied my history. My mind will  not quiet. It doesn’t rest during this time. It doesn’t sit in comfort in the silence. Chatter. Endless chatter. That’s what fills the void.

The world is full of chatter. It’s peppered on the feeds of social media platforms. What are we going to say next? What is our commentary? We Tweet, we Facebook, we Instagram and blog. We have so much to say, so much void to fill. The dialogue is constant, pervasive, and unceasing. Dialogue at the touch of our fingers, literally. Words smattered, mushed, and mutated reside in our cavernous thoughts. It becomes comfortable to constantly react, with verbiage bouncing in our cranium.

It becomes addictive, this need to react and gather reactions. We comment to get validation.  We speak to find comradery. We opinionate every thought.  Every desire. Every passion. Every obsession.

The recent weeks and years have been a struggle for many to be heard. The oppressed, the disenfranchised, the scientists, all strive for recognition. Somehow, the experts and voices of reason get lost in the chatter.  Everyone is talking, no one is listening to each other. So many voices speaking over the experts. So few listening to the experts. So few engaged in active listening. In psychology classes, we are taught about active listening. A key point to active listening is to pay attention so you may, ultimately, respond appropriately. In order to pay attention, we need to stop talking. But silence alone won’t help. We must be engaged with our minds ready to fully listen. To process, to contemplate. To be an active listener, we need to reserve judgement until we have heard everything. It’s not an act of passivism or weakness. On the contrary, it takes great self discipline to properly perform active listening. It’s a skill to be cultivated.

There are many times that I have cranked up my Public Enemy to Rage against the Machine. I experience frustration and anger that  makes me want  to scream into the void. There’s a certain level of therapy in doing  this.  It makes me feel better. It’s a reactionary response to an unjust situation.

A true revolution and change in behavior cannot be accomplished with reactionary coping mechanisms alone.  There is much discomfort in listening, being silent, and reserving judgement. Many times, what may help, is to get uncomfortable. Read the stories that are sad, listen to the people who are experts. Actively listen to gather information, to gather understanding. One cannot show empathy without first engaging in active listening.

It’s difficult to comprehend a protest, a pandemic, repression, or racism through the chatter. It can be overwhelming, it can cause despair and hopelessness. What I am suggesting is to sit in the silence. Quiet our own thoughts. Calm ourselves. Then, slowly, start a revolution of listening, of empathetic understanding. Reserve reaction, reserve judgement. Be in the moment of the oppressed, absorb the numbers of the pandemic. A revolution or solutions will come through a deep knowledge that we can only gain through silence.

Sit in comfort of the silence and rest. Listen, really engage in the voices. Then, after enlightenment through understanding, rage against the machine.

Music: "Killing in the Name of" by Rage Against the Machine