Listening Space

“At a certain point you say to the woods, to the sea, to the mountains, the world, Now I am ready. Now I will stop and be wholly attentive. You empty yourself and wait, listening. After a time you hear it: there is nothing there. There is nothing but those things only, those created objects, discrete, growing or holding, or swaying, being rained on or raining, held, flooding or ebbing, standing or spread. You feel the world’s word as a tension, a hum, a single chorused note everywhere the same. This is it: this hum is the silence. Nature does utter a peep—just this one. The birds and insects, the meadows and swamps and rivers and stones and mountains and clouds: they all do it; they all don’t do it. There is a vibrancy to the silence, a suppression, as if someone were gagging the world. But you wait, you give your life’s length to listening, and nothing happens. The ice rolls up, the ice rolls back, and still that single note obtains. The tension, or lack of it, is intolerable. The silence is not actually suppression; instead, it is all there is.” Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk, in Mountain Record: The Zen Practitioner’s Journal, Winter 2013/2014

I’ve been in this space, this intolerable space, before. You listen, but for what? I’m unsure how much of this space is available anymore. Such listening would be seen as unproductive and irresponsible today.

And yet our world desperately needs us to listen. Things and people do not speak to us unless they feel safe. Their inner worlds remain mysterious to us. We are not paid attention to; we are marketed to. Worse yet, only the marketers seem to care what we think about anything, and only for their own benefit. Communication seldom occurs, only propaganda.

To listen and be listened to, aren’t these things the essence of relationship?

I didn’t find it in church. All I found was a hierarchy interested in self-preservation at the expense of the local collapsing economy. They demanded that everyone obey them, while listening to no one. Their out-of-touch-ness made their edicts weirdly irrelevant to local Mid-Michiganders.

So I listen to myself. Perhaps I am solipsistic now, but I am operating from a deficit of being taken seriously. I am the sacred space I have been seeking.

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About cdhoagpurple

I live in Michigan. I was Greek Orthodox (and previously Protestant), but now am more Buddhist than anything. I am single now (through the till-death-do-you-part clause of the marriage contract). My husband Barry was a good man and celebrated 30 years in AA. I am overly educated, with an MBA. My life felt terminally in-limbo while caring for a sick husband, but I am free now. I see all things as being in transition. Impermanence is the ultimate fact of life. Nothing remains the same, good or bad.

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