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How do we speak, and how do we listen -- now?
In the coming days in the U.S., we’ll continue to hear harsh words ringing all around us: the polarity of “us” vs. “them,” the rage and blame. We may utter some of those words ourselves. We may not notice a lot of listening going on. We may be jumping in, or trying to tune out as much of it as possible. And we can assume the vitriol won’t stop when the polls close on Election Night.
I heard an interesting discussion on radio this week, reporting on a study about beliefs. The gist was that once a person makes a moral decision for themselves that a thing is right or wrong, when they’re exposed to science or research on the subject--which might either contradict or support their belief--they generally don’t listen to evaluate the information. Instead, they listen to evaluate the person sharing it. If the data agrees with their existing moral position, they find it and thus also the sharer to be credible. If it disagrees, both the data and the expert get dismissed automatically, thrown out with the bathwater.
The composer Pauline Oliveros, who founded the Deep Listening Institute, believed all sound was legitimate and worth including in our awareness. For instance, if an 18-wheeler thundered past a concert hall and shook the walls while a performance was in progress, in her view that sound too was part of the concert.
“Listening is Love,” she often said.
It’s hard to hear opposing views when they are shouted, screamed, and when the shouter is apparently not listening to anything but the sound of his/her/their own voice.
But we can choose to listen in two directions: to them, and to the sound of our own voices. Not just our words—and there are often words that must be said!—but how we say them.
“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace,” begins the well-known prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.
“Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.”
Can I be grounded and fully in my body—which is my instrument, per the October 14th blog—when I speak? Can I remember to exhale deeply and let a deep calming breath come in before I begin? Can I sense my mouth and throat, release a clenched jaw, recall some of the skills I use in singing, to modulate my tone in difficult conversations?
Are we sowing harmony, or contributing to the 18-wheeler “distraction” we instinctively try to tune out?
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©Danielle Woerner 2020