Listening… with Treasure and Horton

In my November 2 blog, Celebrate November, I linked to 15 Offbeat Holidays You Can Celebrate in November.   According to that list, November 23, today, is the National Day of Listening.

The suggestion is that we take time to listen today to some of the oral history available from our seniors, veterans, and the dispossessed… an excellent idea.

I think we should go beyond just listening politely to those who are often ignored unheard.

Listening may be falling out of practice as a social courtesy, and we may be losing some of our oral history, but our very ability to listen is at risk. I take this very seriously! For example…

Last Saturday my husband and I attended a MET HD film version of the Donizetti opera, L’Elisir d’Amore. It was perfect in every way except that the volume was way too loud. At intermission the audience was grumbling, and my husband wanted to leave. He complained to the management, and the volume was adjusted… still louder than we would have preferred, but without audio distortion. This has happened before in this cineplex. You would think that the projectionist would check the audio levels, that the MET would indicate recommended levels on the DVD’s, that this would not be necessary during a presentation that demanded full audience attention to subtleties of sound.

On Tuesday I taught a Christmas project at the embroidery guild. There was some ambient sound from the other workshops, but not too loud or distracting. Some of the class seemed quite unable to follow spoken instructions, to follow a sequence of steps. They wanted everything written down… a handout they could see. Listening, understanding, remembering, seemed to be beyond them.

Then today I went shopping. The piped music was barely tolerable in the main stores we visited. If you ask to have it turned down, the clerks will say that management has decided on a certain preset volume depending on the size of the store, or that the audio equipment is located in an area to which they have no access. I have left merchandise on the counter and walked out. Once I left a restaurant after ordering. We are held hostage by this insanity!

So today, as I celebrate listening, I would like to share these TED videos…

And if, like the ladies at the embroidery guild, you prefer or actually need to see… rather than listen…  the five key steps from Julian Treasure’s second talk are summarised on a website called worklifepointers. Here is just the conclusion:

RASA is a Sanskrit word for juice or essence. It stands for 1) Receive, meaning paying attention to the person; 2) Appreciate, meaning making little noises like hmm, ok, …; 3) Summarize using the word “so”; 4) Ask questions afterwards.

“I believe every human being needs to listen consciously in order to live fully, connected in space and time to the physical world around us. Connected in understanding to each other. Not to mention spiritually connected because every spiritual path that I know of has listening and contemplation at its heart.”

“Conscious listening creates a world of connection, of understanding and of peace.”

So please, listen more consciously and conscientiously, gather some oral history today, and treasure your hearing (bad joke, I couldn’t resist).

When noise is interfering with your activity, try to be proactive and ask that it be modified or eliminated. You can’t always make it happen, but if enough people speak up, changes can be made. Customers of a large drugstore chain here in Ontario complained when Christmas music started being played right after Hallowe’en. The management complied. They still have piped in music… who needs it in a drugstore… but they will not start the yule yell until December. A tiny victory, but a small step forward is still movement in the right direction.

And I can’t leave the topic of listening without inviting you to watch this charming parable by Dr. Seuss… Horton Hears a Who.

As usual, there is much wisdom in children’s literature, and Theodore Geisel had a wonderful gift for speaking both to children and adult readers simultaneously, without boring or confusing either.

If you haven’t got twenty-five minutes for it now, do come back… it is about listening, and so much more!

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