Saturday, 25 July 2020

Learning How To Listen

When I was training to be a Samaritans volunteer I remember we were taught the three golden rules:

1. Listen

2. Listen.

3. Really listen.

Really listening includes listening not only to what is being said, but also to what is not being said. Really listening means silencing your own thoughts so that you can concentrate totally on the person who is speaking – listening to that whole person, not just their words, because the words are just an outward expression of what lies within.

The same is true for music. According to my CD collection, music is a series of millions of samples of loudness and wavelength, and to my ear music is a pattern of compressions in the air, but that is not what we call music. Nor, I suggest, is music just a tune that you can hum or tap your foot to, or some sound that’s on in the background. I recently watched a YouTube video about really listening to music, listening to each instrument, each voice, how they were used and mixed. Only then can you begin to hear the music behind the music, the soul of the music, shouting or declaiming, loving or crying, making you feel.

If this is how to listen to music then how should we listen to the music of life? Just like music, life could be described as just a series of notes, a CV, a photograph album: this is me as a baby, this is me getting married, and this is me with my grandchildren. But is that all there is? Perhaps we should listen harder.

We could start by listening to all the different voices in our lives, the people who mattered – parents, teachers, our best friends – and hear the songs of life they taught us. We could listen to all our struggles and triumphs and what patterns we can detect, what music ran through them. We can listen to the music of love and beauty that warmed and inspired us, that music that still plays quietly in our hearts if we stop and listen hard enough. We can then listen to how our song has developed and changed through our lives, and how wonderful it has become. Finally we may get some idea of how our song has joined with the song of the whole earth and all that is.

“Thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing,
Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing.
Who could live without it? I ask in all honesty
What would we be? Without a song or a dance what are we?
So I say thank you for the music, for giving it to me.”


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