September 22, 2008
This opinion piece in the New York Times – Two Silences – (for the full piece click here) has a lot of wisdom about listening – how we do it (or don’t) and what we listen for and where. Worth thinking about for any of us in the ‘listening professions’.
For the past week, I’ve been staying in northern Finland, just south of the Arctic Circle and a few kilometers shy of the restricted zone that marks the Russian border. This is the boreal forest, a place of almost surreal silence this time of year, when most of the birds have already migrated.
I found myself checking, again and again, to see whether I had gone deaf. I popped my ears. I scuffed a shoe. I tossed a rock into an eddy along the river’s edge. I tapped the guard-rail with a knuckle. There was nothing wrong with my hearing. The human ear is not really meant for straining, and yet I was straining to hear. The silence felt more like an unnatural muffling of my sense
As I stood there, I heard the faint, but quite audible roar of the rapids a half-mile downstream and around a great bend. Why had I not heard it that first night? The answer, I suppose, is that I was too busy not hearing the things I’m used to hearing, including the great roar that underlies the city’s quietest moments. It had taken a week to empty my ears, to expect to hear nothing and to find in that nothing something to hear after all.
Hat Tip: International Psychoanalysis