On December 22 of this past year a beautiful long hair Calico cat showed up at our door. She was very thin. Even though we had decided that we would have no more pets, especially cats since I am allergic, this fury creature changed the entire idea. My daughter fed her and she kept coming back. The cold winter air forced me to bring her indoors, “for just one night and then she needs to go!” I was not going to have a litter box or any smell of a cat in my house. No, no, no. Just one night and that’s it! Needless to say, you know where the story ends. The cat now has two names and neither is her official “real” name. She has become the mascot of Peaceful Quest Retreats.
The thing about cats is that they don’t listen. They look at you when you are speaking to them in annoyance. As friendly as Mystic or Fluffy (depending on who is calling her) is she still has the demeanor of most people nowadays. The look in her eyes says, “I hear the words that are yapping out of your mouth but I can’t be bothered right now while I am trying to take a nap or in the middle of my bath.”
Listening is so important. We all talk, talk, gab, blah, blah…but, how many of us actually sit and truly listen? There’s a difference between hearing and listening. The cat hears but she has no interest in listening. I am finding fewer and less people in my life who actually listen. I’m usually shocked when someone repeats words that I’ve said back to me. No wonder we pay therapists to be heard. At least for one hour we get acknowledged for our existence.
I have a friend whom I’ve known for over 25 years. He’s a man of few words and whenever we talk I enjoy listening to him. He is one of the few people I’ve ever met who can listen and be present in the conversation. Sometimes he will remind me of something I said years ago and I am always surprised at the details because they are about insignificant things. You know, like how I like my B.L.T. or what my favorite smell is after the rain, or what my favorite show was in the 90’s. Just useless information! And, if he can listen to my useless information then I know he listens to the important stuff as well. I am often cautious of things I will say because they are banked in his memory and when I least expect it they will be returned back to me.
I am present when someone is talking. I do have days that I am hearing and not retrieving the information, but it is rare. I want to be heard, comprehended, and acknowledge in the presence of another. I am not a cat and don’t expect the person who I am conversing with to be one either. My best friend, Bobbie, and I sit for hours just talking. It is a gift to share and be heard from the most insignificant thing to life changing events. There’s nothing more beautiful than being seen and acknowledge for our existence. I know this is rare and I don’t take it for granted.
With the advancement in technology people are becoming less and less connected to each other unless they are emailing, texting, twittering, FaceBooking, or whatever else is out there that requires no eye contact. Listening is becoming an ancient art. I suspect that one day we will be like my cat, giving a blank and annoying stare of interruption. I watch this behavior with the younger generations and can’t believe that they just don’t interact the way we did when we were teenagers. Are we really this disconnected from each other that we cannot hold a conversation with anyone around us? What happened to us, as a whole in society that we can’t consciously look at someone and speak with them? We are constantly being bombarded by the external parts of technology. Are we really governed by the rush of being constantly charged by cell phones, emails, computers, IPOD’s and any gadget that is supposed to make our lives easier, when in reality they handicap our social skills? Life was simpler twenty years ago. We were human beings interacting with each other. When we sat to talk there was a presence to the visit. We listened attentively, to gossip, stories, and useless information. It didn’t matter what it was, we were sitting with each other listening.
I pray that society changes its course. The path I am observing seems so detached and disconnected. The simple things in life as interconnecting, sharing and “shooting the breeze” with each other will soon be historical. Our children’s children will watch movies about this and will never understand what joy there is in looking at another human being while listening. Society will become more like cats, minding their own business, and only paying attention when they feel like it, otherwise use technology to relate the simplest message. The beauty of human interaction will probably be a study for social anthropologists.