Sunday, July 3, 2011


     As children, many of us daydreamed that we possessed magic powers. We could fly like Peter Pan. We could become invisible when Mom was looking for us. We could open doors to wealth and adventure with only a word: "Open Sesame!"

     Then we grew up and got trapped in the narrow limits of reality. We couldn’t fly without an airplane or hot air balloon. We could never become invisible, especially when we were in trouble. Doors to wealth and adventure open only to hard work or brute force, not words. Except for one, that is.

     The words which can open this exciting door are simple: "Tell me about...", or "What’s happening with you?" These, or some similar, open-ended phrase, can open the door to a wealth of adventure and wisdom stored away in the mind of another person. Accepting silence, a nod of understanding or a grin of appreciation will keep these stories coming.

     I have discovered that listening is an adult form of magic. It lets us into hidden and secret places where others have locked away their life adventures. Listening blesses us with a form of wisdom not available on Wikipedia. It can let us glimpse the pits of pain that silently fester in hearts we thought were happy and take us to mountaintops of hidden joy.

     Listening, like magic skills, must be learned. Our Creator gave us two ears and one mouth, obviously intending for us to listen twice as much as we talk. Most of us tend to reverse that balance, so listening must be learned. (Or is it keeping quiet that must be learned?)

     Hearing the sounds in the world around us only involves our two ears and the auditory nerves that connect them to our brains. Listening to a fellow traveler on the pilgrimage of life involves much more of us. It requires a "third ear" to hear what’s not said, a heart that cares, and a zipper on the lips. How hard it is to keep our opinions, our own stories, and our self-righteous judgments unspoken!

     So, as adults, we’ve not completely outgrown magic! Listening well can still miraculously open to us doors of wisdom and adventure far beyond our own experiences.

16 June 2011 - mshr