Listening, Really

On the importance of listening:

Think of a person you know who tends to interrupt others.  This person is not a good listener.  His or her mind processes what it takes in and anticipates what the person speaking might say.  This behavior is about impatience, insecurity, arrogance and a lack of caring.  It is about an absence of openness, in the sense of being truly receptive to what one is listening to.”

On his dislike of music on headphones:

But the real reason I don’t use personal audio stereo equipment is because I do not need it.  My life in music as someone who grew up with it, continues to listen to it with great care and joy, has given me a headful of melodies that surge forth unbidden.  They resonate in my mind and in my ears; they float away only to be replaced by others.  A life in music can do this and you can be a part of it.”

Both quotes by Fred Plotkin in Classical Music 101

These passages captured my attention this past weekend. 

The second quote made me wonder: how often do we (individually or as a culture) sing in our daily lives?  We had coffee with an old, dear friend who told us about his life-changing trips to South Africa.  He talked about how musical their culture was, how spontaneous outbreaks of singing occurred regularly.  When you listen with headphones (and I do) the aspect of community is removed from the listening experience.  Individualism wins and connectedness loses.  At the wedding reception in California, the DJ played old songs; what fun to lean in to the person next to you and croon the song together.  There is power in singing together.

I think that is why the singing at our church is so potent: everyone sings with gusto and singing together is better than singing alone.

When is the last time you sang aloud?

*photo is my mom’s brother Gordon and my husband Curt talking and listening at a rendezvous last year


10 thoughts on “Listening, Really

  1.  I joke that my babies always cried MORE when I sang to them — I was just sharing today with some of my students how I love to sing, especially the hymns that I grew up with, but I hesitate to sing very loudly because I really cannot carry a tune — may the noise the Lord hears be a sweet, sweet sound in His ear! Blessings, Laurie

  2. Have you read Chesterton’s “Tremendous Trifles”? He has a chapter, entitled “The Little Birds Who Won’t Sing,” in which he discusses community singing. Here’s a quote:”…when my sea journeywas over, the sight of men working in the English fields reminded meagain that there are still songs for harvest and for many agriculturalroutines. And I suddenly wondered why if this were so it should bequite unknown, for any modern trade to have a ritual poetry. How didpeople come to chant rude poems while pulling certain ropes orgathering certain fruit, and why did nobody do anything of the kindwhile producing any of the modern things? Why is a modern newspapernever printed by people singing in chorus? Why do shopmen seldom, ifever, sing? …If reaperssing while reaping, why should not auditors sing while auditing andbankers while banking? If there are songs for all the separate thingsthat have to be done in a boat, why are there not songs for all theseparate things that have to be done in a bank?”I’ve posted the chapter here, if you’re interested in reading the rest of Chesterton’s thoughts (including his suggested chorus for bank clerks, “In Praise of Simple Addition”).

  3. It’s funny you talk about this topic. I walked into the Hallmark store this afternoon to get a sympathy card for a friend, and was singing a hymn to myself without even thinking. When I got inside, though, I started whistling the tune–somehow in my mind that is more acceptable to “the public” to hear me whistling instead of singing! Isn’t that silly?

  4. I am guilty of the first.  That is, not being a good listener 😦  But Kin Hubbard says that a good listener is usually thinking about something else.About headphones….dont use ’em. I’ve tried. I’ve found that I like to listen to the sounds around me.  Oh, I know one place I like headphones…. on an airplane!And singing aloud?  at church ….and only rarely when I am alone.  Sometimes I stop singing during worship just to listen to the congregation 🙂

  5. I am ALWAYS singing.  Unfortunately I just kind of made up the tune I generally fall back on. (no one could really sing along) It’s more like a musical with the same tune. I’m always singing to get my children in a better mood or singing to let them know I want something done.  I should start singing hymns LOL.   

  6. I love to listen. I guess I always thought talking with the person about what they were talking about was ‘active listening’.  Not thinking ahead of them.   But thinking WITH them. (often I interrupt unfortunately) But i AM listening.  It’s when I get quiet that I’m usually not listening. I’m usually doing something else and my mind is elsewhere, esp on the phone. 

  7. I’m not sure who said that it was “having a melodious heart.” I liked that.  (Singing to yourselves in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.) I sang in the car on the way to work.  RE: listening. I went to a retreat once that was dedicated to learning to listen to others (including the Lord). Wow was that ever tough but I haven’t forgotten it. I try to press my lips together to supress the desire to interrupt and force myself to listen. It is a discipline that involves lots of love for the other person. Thanks for this once again Carol,

  8. @My_name_is_Angie – Angie, I just finished reading the chapter and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Thank you so much for taking the time to type it up, both here in the comments and on your Google site.The more I read snippets of Chesterton, the more I want to read large gulps of GKC. His humor is irrepressible!

  9. Oh, I didn’t type it out…just copied and pasted. “Tremendous Trifles” is in the public domain, available at Project Gutenberg (here). It’s Chesterton at his best: making profound observations using everyday things. I can’t resist one more quote, this one from the introduction:”As the reader’s eye strays, with hearty relief, from these pages, it probably alights on something, a bed-post or a lamp-post,a window blind or a wall  It is a thousand to one that the reader is looking at something that he has never seen: that is, never realised.”…But don’t let us let the eye rest. Why should the eye be so lazy?  Let us exercise the eye until it learns to see startling facts that run across the landscape as plain as a painted fence. Let us be ocular athletes. Let us learn to write essays on a stray cat or a coloured cloud. I have attempted some such thing in what follows; but anyone else may do it better, if anyone else will only try.”

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