Monday, December 3, 2012
This is what society's all about, really; it's the provision of a forum by which our stories can be exchanged, giving us a frame of reference as to where we belong, and identify those whom we will have as friends, people whose stories resonate with our own.
But what if there's no one to listen?
Recently I met a chap who had lived a long, active life, but whose activities, in recent years, were curtailed by his wife's illness. Life moved on, and left him becalmed.
We share the same interest in antique airplane resotration, and I accepted an invitation to his shop, a large, well-equipped Aladdin's Cave of aeronautical treasures.
As he showed me around, he talked about what he had done, who he had known, where he had gone. He gave life and context to the metal and wood in his shop, and created a world of the past, evanescent and lovely as a soap bubble.
When the visit was over, I realized something - he had asked me no questions about the work and airplanes and people I'd known. Not one.
It was an interesting feeling - my ego wanted to jump up and down and say, "I want to talk TOO!", but there was a deeper lesson there that was worth learning, and to learn it I had to drop something large and heavy on my ego, to get it to shut up, at least for a while.
And the lesson did come out of the mist, and took form. It's a pretty simple one.
The best stories we will ever tell are the ones in which we don't say a word.
The world's filled with talkers. But listeners, good listeners, are a terribly rare breed, because to be able to listen effectively, you have to be able to put your ego in a box, and keep it there.
Not just make it wait its turn. It's not a matter of waiting for someone else to finish and shut up so you can jump in and talk - it's a matter of just listening, and making that the purpose of your being there.
It's not an easy thing to do, but it's one of the most liberating - to realize that you can lay down your own tales, be secure in your knowledge of their worth, and give others the audience they crave, and truly need.