January 3, 2020
Thanks to Alissa Simon, HMU Tutor, for today’s post.
About ten years ago, I read a headline that I will never forget: “The End of Food.” That was it. Just the end of food. Immediately I wondered about things like the apocalypse and end-of-life scenarios. We have been raised in a society where the juiciest, sexiest headlines get more attention than the straightforward and succinct. I clicked on that headline, but the article was actually about whether or not genetically-modified foods were considered real foods. In the ten years since, I have become increasingly critical of this trend that we now call “clickbait.”
I believe that every new year (let alone every new decade) offers us the possibility of creation. I believe that we can shape our life, our news, our tone any way that we want and I, for one, want to shape it with listening. I am tired of the eye-catching. I am bored with the outlandish. And, frankly, I am depressed by insults and obnoxious puns. In 2020, I want to hear more listening. This desire stems not only from the stress of living in a contentious society, but also because leading conversations demands great skill in listening. Not simply the conversations where we listen to one another struggle with difficult concepts and ideas, but also the act of understanding someone else’s point.
For me, listening often begins on the page. Reading incorporates a great deal of listening. It demands that we set ourselves aside. In this TED Talk, Julian Treasure says that all of the loud noise hurts our ability to “pay attention to the quiet, the subtle, the understated.” His point is that some very important things, precious things even, get lost among the shouting and the noise. In the Foreword to Crucial Conversations; Tools for Talking When Stakes are High, Stephen Covey calls for a solution that represents “our way” not just “my way” or “your way.” He further states that the process outlined in Crucial Conversations “moves you from understanding the supernal power of dialogue, to clarifying what you really want to have happen and focusing on what actually is happening, to creating conditions of safety, to using self-awareness and self-knowledge.” Listening includes skills such as setting yourself (and your opinions) aside to entertain the ideas presented, paying attention to the subject and not focusing on a response, allowing the conversation to flow without an attempt to control it. Therefore, in 2020, whether I am reading Aquinas, arguing with family, or participating in a book discussion, I will try to set myself aside and just listen.
I would like to invite you into the conversation – welcome to my year of listening! You can join a variety of discussions whether in our ongoing film courses or Quarterly Discussions (in addition to our coursework). I hope to hear from you during some of these great opportunities! Thank you for listening! Happy New Year to you and yours!
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