In 2016, I wrote a blog entitled, “Listen To Your Heart.” The focus of the article was about the choices we make in our lives every moment of every day. Whereas ego tells us we need this thing or that thing to be successful, our heart tells us what we need to be content. Our heart speaks to us when it is open to us listening.
A great debate has endured over the centuries regarding which of Beethoven’s nine symphonies is the best. Some say it is the beautiful seventh symphony, or the sixth, the “Pastoral,” or the ninth and last, with its “Ode to Joy,” that reaches even those who have never before listened to one note of classical music.
The French have always deified one of their favorite composers, Gabriel Fauré, and the English loved Francis Pott, a composer, and inspirational hymn writer.
All three were profoundly deaf. When Francis Pott felt he could no longer write music, he returned to his original profession, being a member of the clergy, where he counseled others.
The question I would have the composers answer, as well as actors such as Marlee Maitlin, Halle Berry, or Jane Lynch (all completely or partially deaf), is this. How do you manage to compose your music or act your lines so that it touches the hearts of those who correctly hear?
Hearing What You Heard
Perhaps the composers, actors, and even inventors such as Thomas Edison might tell us that listening is not always the same thing as hearing. We hear with our ears; we listen with our hearts. We might ask, “Oh, what do those people know, anyway?” It turns out; they know quite a lot.
Psychologist, Dr. John M. Grohol, writing for the online magazine Psych Central (October 2018) reviewed ten reasons why we don’t listen. The truth is quite disturbing. Among his observations: we often don’t listen because we automatically believe we’re right and the other person is wrong; we automatically blame the other person (it’s always their fault); we need to play the victim rather than to take ownership; we mistrust what others are telling us and “my favorite,” that we’re plain selfish.
It is impossible to listen to others if our hearts are closed for business. Unfortunately, not only are adults becoming more closed off to listening, but successively younger generations are getting worse.
Part of it has to do with rearing. Many parents have abandoned the responsibility of ensuring their children listen to their elders, by their grandparents, teachers, spiritual figures, or authority of any kind. Somewhere along the line, our society has flattened the concept of wisdom; 12-year-olds are seen as having the knowledge of 92-year-olds. You don’t need me to tell you this; they don’t.
But it goes much deeper than that. Many of us have replaced our listening hearts with devices. Digital devices create exceptional selfishness in our society. Think I’m wrong? Walk into any restaurant (after social distancing ends) and observe four people sitting at a table at lunch. Chances are strong; they will be staring at their phones and texting rather than being fully engaged in the conversation. It is nearly impossible for a selfish person to listen.
Speaking to the current social isolation situation, part of the reason for this prolonged period of social distancing is due to segments of our society who refused to listen to what they needed to do.
Find Common Ground
It is not that social media is “bad,” it is that the sheer anger, blame, and mistrust we see on any site shuts down virtually any opinions that are dissenting or balanced. So many of us, as Dr. Grohol points out, need to be right, we won’t allow that we could be wrong.
Conversely, in those times when we are right, and the other admits they’re wrong, we use it as a platform for taking victory laps rather than an admiration of the other person for seeing our point.
It is almost impossible for arrogance to listen.
If we don’t listen to one another, where will our society be led when there are no people left with whom we can communicate? If we only look to those with whom we agree, suppose we’re all wrong, and we don’t know it?
Unless we plan on going through life robotically, we must communicate with each other. We must find common ground. We must jointly solve problems, be it to develop a new vaccine or to design a multi-use building.
The person with excellent listening skills is admired not because they necessarily agree with every point we make, but that they respect our point of view. In turn, we must be willing to listen entirely to their point of view as well.
We can’t go along only with those with whom we agree. It is dangerous. Goodness knows history is replete with situations where entire nations agreed with tyrants.
The musicians and actors who are deaf speak to us when our hearts are open to listening. It is good to listen and tragic when our hearts no longer hear. You are at your best when you listen with your heart.