Deep Listening

I have enjoyed reading slowly Krista Tippett’s book, Becoming Wise.  Often I have to read books quite quickly.  I may need some information or just some acquaintance with the material in the book.  But I figure if I am reading something that is supposed to help me become wise, I should take it slowly and actually try to become wise!  I don’t know whether it is working, but I am making the effort.  I realize I did not have a wisdom baseline before I started the book.
I would like to think I have built up a little wisdom over the decades of my life, but how is one to know.  People don’t just come up and say, “Boy, you really are wise.”  In fact, I don’t think anyone has ever said, “Wow, you are a little wise!”  Knowledge is a little easier to measure.  You can take a test or something similar and know whether you actually have learned some things.
Wisdom often has to do with the things in life that are difficult to measure.  Wisdom has to do with love, faith, compassion and things like that.  I know Mother (Saint) Teresa was wise and, certainly, Gandhi seemed very wise.  Many of us know our grandparents were at least a little wise.  I know my paternal grandfather was wise and he had little education.  So he proves wisdom is not a factor of formal education.
The thing I most like about Tippett’s book is all the quotations from people she has interviewed in the process of hosting her radio show.  So many of the folks she talks to are people I know from their writings or from the news about them.  In fact there are some she includes whom I personally know.  That is always a fun read.  I have known people like Parker Palmer, Vincent Harding and others.  When I read her and meet someone I don’t personally know, I always think how cool it would be if I had known her or him.
Some of these folks I would love to meet are still living.  One such person is Sister Simone Campbell.  I know she is a member of the Sisters of Social Service.  Campbell is best known for her leading role in the “Nuns on the Bus” project.  This began in 2012 when a bunch of nuns hopped a bus and traveled around the country calling for support of various social justice issues.  Campbell is also known as the Executive Director of NETWORK, an advocacy group working for justice rights and concerns.  I see her as the prophetic conscious of the Church and American society.  She helps us see it the way it should be.
I like the snippet about Sister Campbell that Tippett has in her book.  The section I find most intriguing is on deep listening.  I know there is a contemporary movement focused on deep listening, but I don’t want to chase that here.  Common sense tells us what deep listening means.  Rather I am interested in how Tippett portrays Campbell.  Tippett notes, “Deep listening’ is a virtue that anchors every kind of love relationship and it is the compass Sister Simone cites again and again as a creative, openhearted anchor to her life of strong passions and advocacy.”
I like the idea of listening as a compass that anchors relationship---especially love relationships.  It seems true to me that love cannot really exist without some modicum of listening.  If I talk all the time---or if there is no talk at all---then surely love is not a part of the relationship.  It helps me see why and how the nun goes about her advocacy work.  This kind of listening anchor enables her to be present in a creative, openhearted way to all people.  It strikes me this could be a recipe for how we do peacemaking.  If we could even approach strangers and enemies like this, new things would be possible.
Tippett goes on to talk about Sister Campbell.  The nun “offers these lines of self-appraisal on whether one is being true to deep listening in any situation…”  Campbell asks these questions: “Am I responding in generosity?  Am I responding in selfishness?  Am I responding in a way that builds up people around me, that builds me up, that is respectful of who I am?”  These are powerful questions.  If we all ask ourselves such questions, we would anchor ourselves in love.  We would become peacemakers in our turbulent world.
If I want to make this part of my own life, I will need to listen.  I realize I am involved in countless conversations.  All around me people are talking.  Sometimes I listen; the real question is whether I ever practice deep listening?  I fear that often I hear, but I don’t listen.  Too often, I have my own agenda running instead of listening to the other.  I make myself more important than the other and, therefore, completely miss opportunities to be present for the other.
I want to ask the nun’s questions.  Am I responding in generosity?  I know what this means.  Am I willing to be this generous?  I hope so.  Am I responding in selfishness?  Sadly, I know all too well what this feels like!  Her third question is huge: am I responding in a way that builds up people around me?  That builds me up?  That is respectful of who I am?  This is where I want to be.  Now it is a matter of acting on it.  Knowing it is not sufficient. 

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