I always choose my words carefully Even more so as you listen to me But somehow silently now suddenly I see my secrets have drifted out to sea. I’m a witness as my thoughts unfurl My secret privacies untangle and uncurl Confidences once kept in fear by me Now freed soar high above the sea. And because you listened to me My silent secrets once solitary Are calling and beckoning to me As they climb beyond the sky and sea. So dimly I discern Perhaps there might be A sanctuary of safety For me and my secrets by the sea.
I knew Mark Colvin (and his kidney!) purely through Twitter! And sad at his loss.
I did read some of his interview transcripts: a gentle questioner able to get a better answer! But in the maelstrom that is Twitter, he came across as funny, intelligent, curious, never ever patronising, clever and subtle, a joy to read.
And his last tweet!!
I think every one failed social media except for Mark Colvin.
Go on, click the angry icon. Share the negative post or tweet.
Slip in and quickly criticise. Tell the other how they got it completely wrong.
They lack intelligence. Common sense. Logic.
Sit back and easily insult the unlike you.
They can’t even think. They’re Inhuman. We should wipe them out.
Yes it’s so easy to disagree and oppose. And easiest to offer no solution.
I thinking this as I read each tweet storm. And think even more as I click through each Facebook outbreak outrage.
I realise it is so familiar. For it was exactly the same as my experience.
For at quite close range and for quite a long time, I heard the same words for the same reason.
For to disagree, even silently through to mildly evoked white-hot anger.
Sometimes in despair, I joined in and fully embraced the proferred down spiral.
Until somebody asked, “So how did that work for you Andrew?”
I’d shake my head silent. I said no, it didn’t, it didn’t at all, it made things far worse.
“So what are you going to about it Andrew?”
(How can you make it better?).
There was the beginning of an answer.
I was learning disagreement skills.
Not the “let’s agree to disagree” cliche. That only suspended hostilities for now. And led to a ever widening DMZ!
Be silent Andrew. Don’t interrupt the the other. Listen to the person behind the words.
Sit stock still Andrew. Don’t move and distract the other. Don’t insult them for not thinking like you.
For no-one thinks like you. Which is a wonderful thing! For everyone and you too.
Ask the question that goes beyond the question. Wait for the answer that reveals another’s truth. Not to you. To them.
Listen and bide your time, then you’ll find that it’s the time. For the quiet and thoughtful ones to be heard.
Who speak without the intent of crushing free speech. Who speak and listen to encourage freedom of listening.
To enable those who accept truth without question (as you once did) to find their own. And others find theirs.
Otherwise it gets too dark when we all agree not to look for the light.
Safe between the cold clouds and their rain How can I ever want for heat again? This warmth will always be enough for me No longer tepid and lukewarm I'll be. And to hold one breath and another That is yours as our spirit melds together Who would want ever to speak to be heard When all is listening already and always? Yet how can I ever be silent When in you there is all that is yet to be said? Yet when I speak from you I hear another The voice one of a third infinite lover. But not one that would rend us asunder No that's earths unjust storm and thunder It's a soft whisper louder than breath Louder even than that last drawn before death But this soft trill is no harbinger of hate No this quiet voice heralds love's true fate Which is to salve and heal the solitary one And weave together untorn two once alone And much more like the quiet gardener still Plant unkillable seeds, water, wait and till And reap fully a love once merely finitely That embraces all enjoined in an everlasting trinity.
You never really wanted to go out there. You’re outnumbered for one thing. You know that any false move in front of them will be the last and final one. You’re thinking that the light is too bright, your voice will be too soft, your tread too heavy, your stance too awkward. You’re really scared to death, deep down. You don’t know why what starts you on those first steps out there. You shuffle tentatively at first. Then you’re puzzled as to why you then confidently stride forth. It’s as if you’re already a success. Like you’ve already been applauded and called back for more. And then you meet.
You’re all alone, just you and them. You never expected them to listen, even for a moment. You start as you always do. You focus on relaxing yourself. Or you’re trying to look relaxed. Or acting as if you already are. But now you don’t have time to be confused. You’re already speaking. And listening to your tone, your rhythm, your timbre and your breath. For it’s as if to your great relief, at the very last moment, someone far more confident than you’ll ever be has stood in for you. And saved you. And for that you silently give great thanks.
But you were waiting for the whisper, the voice too loud, just enough that will silence you and your words forever. But it never speaks. It is struck silent by the silence. It never speaks because there’s nothing for it to say. Yet you say it just the way you’ve said it before. And in the reality, it’s better than you’ve ever heard. You never think the pause for breath, which seemed in practice so short and now is an everlasting chasm of time, is perfect comic timing. You make the joke that you’ve heard far too many times before. You know they’ve heard it for the first time. As now do you.
At last! Another opportunity to catch up on the backlog of outstanding work.
A teleconference! I dialed in, entered the meeting identification, my pin and spoke my name.
Then I placed my phone in hands-off mode and muted myself.
I knew I was safe because:
- I wouldn’t be asked to contribute
- I had very little to contribute
- I didn’t want to contribute
- I had a document to compose.
As people signed into the teleconference, I started to listen absently. As it continued, my attention wandered even more. Meanwhile people were dropping in and out. This meeting I thought was starting to resemble Tripp & Tyler’s A Conference Call In Real Life.
But once the momentum resumed, I every so often stopped what I was doing and jot down a few notes. I thought to myself this was a very unfocused conversation indeed. Perhaps a facilitator or mediator might help. Besides nearly everyone else was on a higher level than me. And as I discounted that idea chaos struck.
My phone began to blare hold music. I looked carefully at the console. No. None of the lights were flashing. I still was on mute and still connected to the conference.
As the participants realised what had happened, a dull and boring meeting had become a hunt for a culprit. Much like school roll call, one by one we re announced ourselves over the continuing hold music. I took two attempts as I had unmuted and then muted myself.
One person failed to respond. He had received another phone call mid conference. And in answering that call had placed the current call (us) on hold. He had to be contacted as soon as possible to continue the conference and save our sanity.
One of the participants suggested calling him. Which sounded contradictory until he added the words “on his mobile.” The meeting collectively held its breath (as best you can over Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries) and waited for the call to put through. No. He wasn’t answering his mobile either.
Which meant a physical intervention was required. Somebody must find this person and physically remove him from his phone. We waited a few minutes until this was organised.
“Are you near his desk? “Can you see him?” “Can you catch his attention?”
No to all questions.
“Can you go to his office and speak with him?”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
Once more we collectively held our breath (Ride of the Valkyries is a long piece of music) and waited. Upon his return the hold music still continued. The culprit was in his office on the phone and couldn’t be disturbed (in another teleconference).
This teleconference will be postponed until a later date and time…
On a not-so-crowded train. She is the only one standing. Back pressed against the only space that is neither seat nor door. Light brown curly but wiry hair, clear open face, same colour eyes (my best guess as far as I can see), all fully engrossed and engaged.
The bumps and lurches of the train don’t bother her. She just doesn’t lose balance. She sways slightly to the rhythm of the carriage. She is not dancing though. Perhaps inwardly.
Her head is bowed. As if in prayer or contemplation. And her forehead is smooth. Her face serene. And I watch to see if she will raise her head. It’s not just to look at her face. For I’m curious as to her quiet calm and innate peace. Now she is even more fully engrossed and engaged. With her hands held up in front of her.
Not a newspaper. Not a smart phone. Not a magazine. Not even one of those slate-sized flickering whispering mini TVs.
For a second, time stops and everything around her is removed. So much so that I stop and wonder and look again. Yes, now I know what it is. It’s like she’s behind a lectern. She’s reading. A tattered dog-eared hardback with yellow threads fraying the red cover. No title that I can see.
I wait to see if she’ll read what holds her so aloud.
For the last person that held out a book like that let me read it.
And I wanted to read it aloud : it was that good…a children’s book too…
Perhaps I’m waiting for the sequel.
In both cases the sensation was exactly the same. I’m sitting there, open-mouthed, literally watching the pen write the words in front of me.
It would be great if that happened all the time. But it doesn’t. I still can’t say (arrogantly), that it occurs because I’m talented. That it came from me. No…
I talked with one of my sons about talent. His observation was that others suddenly became envious once they found out you’re talented. The feeling for him was being treated as if you’ve stolen something. My rather strident response was tell them that it’s not theft at all. We did both agree that jealousy towards talented people is unwarranted and untrue.
Yes…being creative is like unwrapping a gift. The talent (if any) is can you unwrap that gift? To me, it’s like the poet Ruth Stone as described in Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk. The speech or blog or story or poem is told through me not from me. To tell it well, doesn’t require talent so much as listening (and Evernote).
It was early December 2003. At that time I had separated, was couch-surfing at a mate’s place and was looking for accommodation. I had inspected a small place in South Brisbane earlier that week, applied and then was accepted, and now was on my way to sign the lease.
I chose the wrong platform. Then the wrong train. I then found the right train. I raced down the escalators to catch it. I reached the platform, saw the train and promptly dropped my wallet scattering coins. I looked across at the train, I looked down at the change and chose the train. By then I assumed I would be late. I phoned the real estate office to warn them. And as well it was raining.
Then I turned up on time! And the rain stopped. I easily found the real estate office. But the entrance wasn’t easily accessible. I circled around the back and found a gate. Looking over the gate, I saw it opened into an indoor-outdoor area. To the left of the gate there was a window/counter and the back office door. I let myself in and announced myself. I was asked to wait and did.
After about 10 minutes or so, there was a knock on the gate. I opened it. Standing before me was a young woman. My guess was that she was tallish (5 feet 9 inches or 175 cm). She had blondish brown very wispy hair, quite the thinnest face and blue eyes. She reminded me somewhat of the actress Kate Hudson. But I didn’t say anything. She was wearing a white or off-white blouse and beige trousers. She had no earrings, no rings, just a watch and had a red Indy 500 strap around her neck. She wore little make-up and didn’t need even that.
We introduced ourselves. I said to her it seemed that you have missed the rain. I then leant through the window and mentioned that she had arrived. I asked her where she worked. She replied that she worked at one of the local radio stations. I immediately thought she might be one of the announcers. But I didn’t say that either.
We both sat down and waited for our appointments. My dynamic Scottish property manager appeared, filled out and processed the paperwork rapidly and then disappeared. In the meantime, my acquaintance’s New Zealand property manager appeared, processed the paperwork whilst having an animated conversation. I listened while I waited. In that time, I worked out that perhaps the other property manager was from Nelson in the South Island.
Finally I was called to the counter for my deposit. I paid my deposit and again had to wait. I started to get worried about time. I began to think of leaving when the New Zealand property manager asked me, “Did you get your receipt?” I replied that I hadn’t.
As I was waiting, my acquaintance attempted to put in her deposit. She searched through her purse for the extra money and came up short. She asked me if she could borrow 60 cents as she had given a tip. It turned out she was 10 cents short. I gave her the remainder. That was all I had left in my wallet after the spillage. We laughed at that.
I was then asked where I was going. I replied back to work in Brisbane. I said I was taking the train back. Despite that she offered me a lift. I accepted. It would be quicker by car.
When she received her receipt, we left. She opened the door to her car for me. I got in.
And then began a remarkable conversation. It started in the usual way. She told me she was an account manager. She mentioned also that she had previously been in an advertising agency. She asked me what I did for a living. I said that I was in Information Technology support and added that I preferred the people side of it.
Then something odd thing happened. I made a comment. It was something like “God willing” or “In faith.” Quick as a flash, she asked me if I was religious. I replied, a little bit reluctantly, “Yes I believe.” I then added that I don’t force my beliefs on anyone. I concluded that people should find out for themselves. She happily left it at that.
We moved on to the next subject and the next. In a short drive from Clayfield to Brisbane, we covered quite a few subjects. I still wonder how so much was said in so little time.
In the end I was dropped off at work. We wished each other well and really that was that.
But I was puzzled. How did we cover so much in so little time? I turned the conversation over in my mind. After a while I remembered what she did when I spoke. As a good listener, she focussed on what I said. But as Peter Drucker said, “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.” That’s why she was a brilliant listener : she focussed and asked me what I didn’t say.
Yes that day I learnt a lesson in listening…