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January 13, 2013

Let Me Listen

Lake District, England. By me.

“Sometimes I sits and I thinks, and sometimes I just sits.”  That’s a quote that’s variously attributed to Satchel Paige and Winnie the Pooh, but it was my grandmother who said it to me, two weeks ago.  It’s been on my mind ever since.

I spent this break away from London.  The first week was spent largely in Belgium, where I shuttled from couch to couch, for the first time in my life traveling to and with people my own age.  From Gent and Brussels, I took five trains north and west to London, and then Edinburgh.  The next two weeks were a blur of family – for the first time, all twelve of my cousins spent time in the same room – and friends, many of whom were unfamiliar to me but will not stay that way.  These last few days have been spent in Paris, Versailles, and Oxford, with two Clarkies.  This morning, I walked from Victoria Rail Station to my home in Bloomsbury.

Every day of the four weeks has been spent in conversation.  That’s where Pooh (or Satchel) comes in.  Now, I’m pretty sure that their quote is up for interpretation, and mine is certainly not the only way to think about it.  But I’ve found it useful to take it as an admonition to listen, really listen to what those around me are saying.  I’ve spent the last four weeks surrounded by people, some of them extraordinary, most of them interesting, and all different than myself.  If I were to spend my time with them thinking, constantly interpreting, I’d do myself the disservice of failing to hear their words on their own terms.  I have a bad habit of immediately contextualizing other’s words into my own language and environment (You went to Wales?  You know, I recently read a book about Wales …) without letting the words come from the context of their own.

This term, and this year, I want to listen fully.  I want to hear all that I can hear without prejudice or agenda.  Let me leave the thinking for later.  Let me listen now.

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