Thursday, February 16, 2012

Of the time it takes to tell


When I was a kid on the farm, my parents entertained a steady stream of friends and relatives. Visits were rarely planned — they simply happened, and were a source of joy. In that hospitable setting, a story was never just a story; its meaning arrived through the way it was told, through voice, gesture, and mood, in a pipe refilled, a burning cigarette the teller forgot he held, the phrasing of breath to the sound of spoons in cups — none of these could be separated from the images themselves.

Quite naturally, I fell into and relished a listening role, and that role continues to this day. They say that writers are great eavesdroppers, and I suppose that is so, but obviously one doesn’t have to write in order to eavesdrop, and eavesdropping itself hardly makes a good writer. One can eavesdrop maliciously, for gain, which isn’t listening at all. But attentive listening nourishes; it keeps us alive, in others and in ourselves.

Listening is a sacred act in which the concept of time, which is largely and desperately misunderstood, assumes its best perspective. When we listen, we never ask where the time goes, or if it exists, or if it need be at all. It is we who are going — ever onward, passing through.


11 comments:

Jonathan Chant said...

A beautiful post William.

William Michaelian said...

I’m pleased you feel that way, Jonathan, and I appreciate your saying so here. Lately I’ve been negligent in that regard, having enjoyed, in silence, so many of your recent entries, as well as those of others I admire.

Paul L. Martin said...

It is always a listening thing. One of the many things I love about your novel, my friend: the title. So appropriate.

William Michaelian said...

Thanks, Paul. It’s funny, because the book didn’t even cross my mind while I was writing this. Then, when I was done, I thought, “Hmm. That sounds mighty familiar.” But I suppose even for those of us who’ve read A Listening Thing, the message bears repeating. It just might be the most important one I know.

Paul L. Martin said...

Finally was able to pull off one of those link-ups with your post both on Twitter and Facebook. Check it out on my FB wall.

William Michaelian said...

Ah, very nice — tweeted and shared in one fell swoop. And you’ve lost no friends yet as a result. Remarkable!

Paul L. Martin said...

Yeah, I am a very slow but deep learner. Not much of a feat for most FB/Twitter users, but I'm "special ed." Mainly wanted you to know that yet another post got me in the heart and inspired a bit of doggerel on my end. You're on a roll.

rahina q.h. said...

an attentive listener you are but also what an observer of human gesture....
the wonderful thing about the senses is if we stay with them in the present moment, time stands still...

William Michaelian said...

Paul, for the sake of accuracy, I think you might consider changing your closing line from “Listen, the wind will tell you all you need to know” to “Listen, the windbag will tell you all he knows, which isn’t much, but at least it’s a start.”

So true, Rahina. It’s a shame we work so hard to ignore or deny them.

Two Tigers said...

I hear you.

William Michaelian said...

I’d never make it as a church mouse.