Inspired by the Illustration Friday word: "vocal" and by the quote:
"The more one listens to ordinary conversation the more apparent it becomes that the reasoning faculties of the brain take little part in the direction of the vocal organs". - Edgar Rice Burroughs
I enjoyed finding this quote, its snide tone so beautifully wrapped in elegant phrases, like a medicine coated to slide down the throat before its bitter taste makes one think twice about swallowing.
But the more I mulled it over, the less pleased I was to derive an illustration from the quote. We all speak without thinking, and pointing this out in a superior way has been done so beautifully by Mr. Burroughs I need not add to his words. And besides, I suspect I am more often to be found on the other side of his judgement line anyway.
I came to listening late in life. As a kid in a noisy opinionated family with many siblings, volume was where it was at. Being clever was great, but if you didn't turn up the volume nobody would know you had anything worth listening to say. After school anecdotes were considered and polished on the way home, and delivered -often at full volume and speed to forestall interruptions - before after-school play could be considered.
It wasn't so long ago that I realized my conversations didn't have a lot of empty spaces. And I wondered if I were one of those people who listened for spaces into which I could insert my next thought, rather than pondering what the other person was saying and responding to that.
So I decided to try listening.
Conversations opened up, slowed down, and became more of a meander with an unknown outcome than a forced march to a planned closing statement. Friends would look at me, perplexed, when I let pauses stretch out, thinking they had more to add.
And I got to know what my friends really thought. Or at least what they would say if I didn't have quite so much to say myself.
I thought about this, and of the abundant flow of noise and words we encounter sometimes, when a person has strong feelings they want to express. Election year is good for that. The internet prompts impassioned attacks and defenses of topics as wide ranging as war and grammar, schooling, sexuality and religion - and those are just some of the topics I've seen this week. Sifting through, looking for the clear thoughts behind the bombast is sometimes more effort than I care to expend. And though I am always interested in someone's opinion, I am rarely ready to subject myself to the vocal deluge of what might otherwise have been an interesting idea.