Just for a moment, turn off the music. Silence the radio and TV. Remove your earbuds.
Listen . . . listen . . .
I hear the clicking of my computer keys, the heatpump pushing cool air into my house, the icemaker dumping frozen cubes, a motorcycle roaring into the distance, and a muffled buzzing white noise of unknown origin.
If I stepped outside I would hear the night. Leftover rain dripping from the gutter. The rustle of a leaf or two. A cricket talking.
We often brag about our ability to multi-task. Research has shown that multi-tasking is really a myth. Scattered focus means scattered energy and scattered results. The same thing happens with our hearing. We watch TV and carry on a conversation at the same time. We text while physically present with someone, claiming we hear what they say even though our attention is elsewhere.
We’ve become accustomed to audio bombardment. We hear in generalities, not specifics. By default we have quit listening — to others, to ourselves, to nature, to words spoken and read, to thoughts and ponderings.
I’m learning from my piano teacher that musical training is about attuning our ears to the specifics of sound and tone and phrase and dynamics and emotion. Right notes are important, but notes are only the beginning. It matters how I play the notes, my touch on the keys, the shaping of a phrase, the emotion I bring to the music. I have to listen, listen, listen for the nuances. Allowing my mind to wander reduces my practice to mere note playing, eliminating the possibility of real music making.
The same is true for our daily listening. If we allow ourselves to be distracted and unfocused, all we hear is jumbled noise. We may hear some of the music or some of the spoken words or some of nature’s sounds. We may miss the sound of the vegetables we’re chopping, or our feet walking on sand. Our audio world is like hash — everything mixed together; distinct flavors are blurred.
How we listen is a habit. And habits can be changed. New habits can be practiced and cultivated.
Try listening a little bit each day — to only one thing at a time:
- listen to your morning before the clamor begins
- listen to your breakfast
- listen to your child, your spouse, your co-worker, your pet
- listen to the fridge humming
- listen to your breathing
- listen to water pouring from the spigot
You’ll be surprised — by what you hear and by what you’ve missed.
Until next Tuesday . . .