A very famous speech by Mark Anthony in the equally famous play Julius Caesar starts with a line ‘Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears’ and that is where the irony of the situation lies.
Imagine such an important address such a crucial part of world history and still the general public is being asked to listen. They are being coaxed to pay attention. This speech is an integral part of the play, as it expresses an opinion with conviction. As per my interpretation it also indirectly states a truth so surreal, which is, even with two ears and a massive frequency range of human hearing spreading from 20 hertz to 20,000 hertz, we are still bad listeners.
We still have to be repeatedly told ‘Could you kindly listen’.
Mundane incidences empirically verify this fact that humans lack the art of harking.
Mums yelling ‘My children don’t listen’, kids shouting ‘Our parents don’t listen’, wife sulking ‘he never listens’ strengthen this verity. One often sees debates on TV channels where eminent guests are invited to speak for or against a topic. The audience is expected to listen, form an opinion and ask questions. While the host plays the role of a convener. Well organized and planned with the idea that one at a time will speaks while the rest listen. However when the implementation time comes this is not what happens. At one time all speak and nobody listens, resulting in pandemonium in the studio which eventually leads to the host going in for a short break or the viewer surfing to another channel.
Another example that I recall, in one of the communication technique lectures we were asked to quickly draw a mama bull a papa bull and a baby bull. At once all scribbled the best caricatures their talent could permit of papa bull, mama bull and baby bull without even realizing that how can we have a female bull! That was when a very important fact was taught to all of us that the populace pays less attention to instructions and even if we listen it is always selective hearing.
With this global problem of too many mouths to speak and too little ears to listen I decided to be a listener for a day. I vouched that come whatever may I shall not unnecessarily speak, even if my brain curses me I shall not give any sort of opinion or advice (solicited or unsolicited). I was heading for a tough task but I surely wanted to experience the feeling of being a listener for a day. Mostly I heard gibberish from all the corners, generic sulking is what others had to offer.
Those who met me for the first time that day instantaneously termed me as shy, reticent, taciturn, aloof, worse cum worse arrogant and snob, because I had nothing to offer in speech. Still that day was a very edifying experience, as I got to know so many new facts and figures so alien to me just by attentively listening to conversations floating around me. I became the agony aunt for so many not by giving them my valuable advice but by lending them an ear in their hour of despair. My mind was in peace with itself as it had the assurance that not even a single word had come out of it which may disturb somebody.
It was a blissful experience but strange it may seem I didn’t want to continue it for long for the simple reason that human by nature prefers speaking and voicing his/her opinion than listening.
Listening is an art that we don’t learn in a day but inculcate in us gradually. With listening I mean attentive hearing and not the selective that we usually do. Surely learning this art is a Herculean task in itself but let me leave you with these thoughts, which incidentally I ‘Listened’ from somewhere. ‘Listening isn’t a need we have; it’s a gift we give’.