We often say that we hear, but don’t listen. What is the difference between hearing and listening? In a sense, the difference is intuitively evident in reflecting on our everyday lives.
Our modern-day condition is unprecedented in terms of the knowledge we hear at every moment of our lives. Everything is accessible and available in a few taps and clicks away from our devices. That was almost unimaginable decades and centuries ago.
In the past, accessing knowledge was so limited and only shared with a few elites exclusively. Only some of the privileged people had access to it. In this regard, the modern-day condition is far better than the situation in the past. We are fortunate enough to have such a knowledge open society and culture. We should never ignore this blessing.
However, we should also realize the downside of this contemporary situation. Due to such knowledge overloaded circumstances, we tend to miss the very act of deep, mindful listening, but superficial hearing alone.
We “hear” a lot and consume a lot. It is indeed unprecedented and phenomenal. A variety of knowledge overwhelms us at every moment of our lives. However, can we “listen” to all of them mindfully and deeply? It seems we can’t. Nevertheless, we got addicted to hearing them all superficially.
We hear a lot and yet listen few. And we got addicted to this condition. How should we understand this situation?
What is the meaning of life? How should we live our lives well? Don’t worry. We can search for them and find the answers online. How can we pursue our careers? How can we entertain ourselves? How can we meditate? How can we pray? How can we worship? How can we be mindful? Don’t worry. We can search for them and find the teachers, mentors, gurus, and instructions online.
The internet seems a vast repository of knowledge in our modern-day society and culture. Everything is accessible and available only in a few taps and clicks away from our devices. Don’t worry. The answers to everything are just out there.
Is that truly so?
On the one hand, we should be thankful for this knowledge of open society and culture. We should be optimistic about it. The condition can be part of the critical components to drive and evolve our civilizations further. In this sense, we can say yes. Many people know how to live a meaningful, healthy life, and meditate, pray, socialize, and exercise for their well-being.
On the other hand, we are only the slaves confined to this repository of knowledge called the internet, aren’t we? We hear a lot and consume a lot. Hence, we are happy. We are such happy slaves, as long as this twenty-first-century self-help and life-hack knowledge are concerned. We are addicted and so much contented in this slavery condition.
However, deep inside, we are aware that we hear a lot but don’t listen to life’s true voice. It seems we hear a lot of messages on how to live our lives well, but we don’t listen to life’s true voice because we are full of ourselves. Our inner self-talks are so loud to cover up something subtle and fundamental.
In this subtle awareness, we can recall the words of Isaiah.
And he said, Go, and tell those people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this person fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.Isaiah 6:9-10
We are happy superficially as long as a set of self-indulgent knowledge entertains us in one way or another. Even about our everyday activities, we tend to cover up our lives’ true voice with a series of consumable self-help and life-hack knowledge and avoid listening to very life itself.
Jesus also pointed out such superficially contented people, while they are even proud of themselves, only because they hear and consume a lot of knowledge as pseudo-wisdom. They see but can’t perceive it. They hear but can’t listen to it.
For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.Matthew 13:15
How can we listen to the true voice of life? How can we listen to very life itself?
Perhaps, the short answer is, “No, we can’t.” As long as we are full of ourselves, as long as our primary concerns are about ourselves, we can never get out of this slavery condition. We have gotten addicted to hearing everything about our lives and have forgotten listening to life’s true voice itself as we are slaves confined to the illusion of our lives.
Why is that so? Because we are the slaves to our selfish selves. Our master is indeed our selfish selves who keep bombarding us with a series of superficial life comforts for our endless consumption. We are such happy salves. We can’t get out of this relationship.
Even if we try to get out of this slavery situation, at this very moment, this effort itself has again become part of our superficial consumption. When we try to listen to life’s true voice, then at this very moment, we are no longer listening but only hearing a new lineup of consumable knowledge as a slavery consumer.
What should we do? Is it helpless? I don’t think so.
Only when and if we surrender the very dichotomy of we can and we can’t, only then a glimpse of listing to the true voice of life would manifest itself. For, at this moment, we would be no longer full of ourselves. We could be ready for forgetting ourselves for selfless, empathetic, compassionate deep listening.
At this very moment, we can see why those people are blessed.
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.Matthew 5:3-9
Life manifests its true face only when and if we stop being ourselves. For, life is not what we see ourselves in it, but what God sees Himself in it. And life is the only manifestation that He loves us.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.John 3:16
Image by Gerd Altmann