Are You Hearing or Listening?

11 12 2012

Let me ask you a couple of questions I’m sure some will find redundant or unnecessary, but hey, let’s go for it anyway.  How many of you consider hearing very important?  How many think about your hearing on a regular basis?  Okay, how many take for granted hearing and Imagethe sounds around you, never really give it much thought?  Now of course all of us with the ability to hear understand how precious of a gift we have.  I learned at an early age the value of hearing from someone who never had that opportunity, namely, my mother.  Mom suffered from severe hearing loss all her life and had to wear hearing aids to be able to listen to anything at all.  She was constantly telling me, “Johnny, always take care of your hearing; you don’t realize how wonderful you have it.”  Then she would say, “Listen to everything around you, drink it all in; and someday if you listen carefully and you might get the chance to hear the earth sing!”  I must confess, besides her physical disability mom had some (shall we say) quirks that made her different from most other people particularly how she thought and perceived the world around her.  (It wasn’t until years later before dementia took her over that I realized the little funny lady from West Virginia possessed more scholarly common sense and insight than most people, including yours truly, gave her credit for.)  But I did heed her advice and paid careful attention to the sounds and tones around me.

Being a musician, hearing has always been important to me for I have a passionate love for every style of this art.  If I were not able to drink in every note and score, no doubt I would be less the individual.

I also love the sound of laughter, especially children’s.  No tone can be as heartwarming and create joy in someone like hearing children at play; such a blessing.

I like playing games with hearing; for instance I work in an environment where the noise decibel in certain areas can be deafening, so loud in fact that hearing protection is required.  My job requires that I spend time walking through these areas.  When I do, I play close attention to the roar of the machinery and the other sounds generated around me.  As I continue my course, I pay heed to how long it takes before the volume diminishes to nothing and a new sound from another department takes over.  I concentrate on what I hear and how soon it’s gone all the way back to my lab where there is only the quite running of analytical equipment.  Hearing can be and is fun.

I think the sounds I enjoy most are outdoors, natural echoes like the wind blowing through the trees and rain as it splashes to earth.  My personal favorite is the times Cathy and I have hiked a good distance to waterfalls.  The large ones you can begin to hear a ways off similar to the sound of wind, but as you draw closer it gets louder until you are surrounded by the roar of the water cascading over the side of a hill or mountain.  I often wondered, “Is this what mom was talking about, the earth singing?”  Maybe, but something inside me told me no.  When she spoke of this global serenade, so to speak, she made sure to emphasize the importance of not just hearing, but listening.  To people with hearing loss, sounds quite often run together like paints will on a fresh canvas if they become wet, causing the picture to be blurred.  In the case of hearing impaired, sounds become nothing more than noise, an unrecognizable and sometime confusing clamor.  To become coherent sounds, two things must work together.  First, the addition of a hearing aid or device to amplify the volume of a sound, and second, strong concentration on what is being produced audibly.  My Father-in-law who also wore hearing aids had perfected this art of attentiveness so well that he seldom had his television above a whisper, but could understand every word that was being broadcast.  So was it the combination of hearing aids and concentration that enabled my mother to hear this earth melody that I could not but as I grew older, so wanted desperately to also?  Listen, listen, listen, that was the key she taught, not just hearing, but listening.  G.K. Chesterton himself said, “There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.

That’s where I had to start, not just trying to hear a song, but learning to listen to every facet of my life, especially others.  If someone is trying to teach me something I have to listen to learn.  If someone has a different opinion, I have to listen to understand why they feel as they do.  If someone does not like something about me (and approaches me in love as a friend), I have to listen to determine if their perspective has validity and then I have to work on that something in my life that needs to be corrected.  But I believe the greatest lesson in listening I’ve learned is to the Word and Voice of the one I call Savior, Lord, My God.

Proverbs 2:1-5 says “My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God”

Again, as I’ve said in the past, I’m not much into practicing a religion, but I do have passion to follow a “faith” I’ve come to believe as truth, the truth that comes in knowing Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior. 

As I continue to listen in my faith life, you’d be amazed (maybe not) at what I hear sometimes; but that’s another story for another time.

Did I ever get the chance to hear the song my mom spoke about?  Well, the answer is yes! I’ve had that pleasure on several occasions now; the last time was in Kentucky at Daniel Boone National Forest.  There, my Lady and I descended one of the natural rock walls that surround the Red River Gorge.  Reaching the floor of the gorge, we walked along a trail for a mile or so until we reached a point where there was nothing but dead silence, no man-made sounds, no wind, no rushing water; nothing.  Closing our eyes and concentrating deeply, we listened.  It begins still, almost silent, but then; there it is.  A hum–no, a low-pitched chime.  Possibly an ever so very quiet choir voice sustaining one magical note eternally; Awesome!  Okay, I know what some of you are thinking; “Miller, cut the jive, all that was happening is you were having a 70s flashback!  The earth does not sing and there’s no evidence that it does!”  Oh Au Contraire, Doubting Bear!  Scientists have written many papers on the subject as more people come forth to testify they have experienced this phenomenon.  It has been described by some in certain regions, as only audible with special equipment.  Others have described it loud enough to hear with the human ear and emulating the sound of birds or singing voices.  I don’t have the time or desire to focus in on any of these studies (Go Google!)  I just know it’s real, just like my mama told me.  Is there a special reason or understanding to what these sounds are and mean.  I’m sure that’s another subject that has a vast numbers of answers depending on the researcher.  I’m not that sharpest tack in the box by a long shot, so I can’t and won’t debate what they are to others; I can only give you my twist on the subject, again set forth on faith alone. You see in Isaiah 44:23 it reads—

Wait a minute!  You know that’s something else you can Google.  Actually, I’d start there! Are you hearing or are you listening?  You just might be missing a world symphony, and more! :o)


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