Listening

It must have been exhilarating when we learned to talk, when we learned to assign meaning to our “these squeaks of ours” (Conrad Aiken), and to recognize that these meanings were by and large shared with others.  And even now it is very rewarding when we share something very personal, something rich in emotional valence, and intuitively know that the one listening understands.  Aiken noted, “And this is peace; to know our knowledge known.”  This is the heart of the therapeutic enterprise—being a good listener.  (And I’m made to think of the opposite of “listening”, recognized in this line from some old tv show, “You aren’t listening.  You’re waiting.”)

Hundreds of years ago, Leonardo da Vinci had profound insight into the enterprise of listening:

O cities of the sea, I behold in you your citizens, women as well as men tightly bound with stout bonds around their arms and legs by folk who will not understand your language; and you will only be able to give vent to your griefs and sense of loss of liberty by making tearful complaints, and sighs, and lamentations one to another; for those who bind you will not understand your language nor will you understand them.  (from “Of Children in Swaddling Clothes”.)

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