I am deeply, comfortably introverted. I accept (more or less) this part of my nature in all its book-loving, quiet-seeking, ardently-creative glory. For as long as I can remember, I have always asked questions so that I could listen to the answers. I didn't divulge much and I still don't tell everyone everything that is going on with me. That is a privilege that is earned. I am, however, very good at listening.
Listening awards us so many gifts. For one, it allows us to plug directly into ideas that are not our own. It gives us perspectives that we might not have considered. It enables us to get a whole slew of ideas to form interesting patterns from. It gives us the benefit of creating "character profiles" of the people we are listening to, so that they are more colourful, more poignant and more human than any one interaction. As friends, colleagues, family, listening is to our greatest benefit. It is not only sensory (we have ears!), but supersenory - letting us form ideas that go beyond the medium of reception.
But what happens when we are confronted with ideas that we can't easily sift through to categorize and apply? What if, for some reason, we're faced with information that, at first blush, doesn't seem accurate? Perhaps it is even purposefully misleading? What if it straddles that very fine line between truth and fiction?
People who meditate often talk about the idea of detachment, whereby a person engages with something without judgement, without wanting to pigeon-hole it into a particular ideology. Letting the idea come and go without conscious attachment. I like this idea but it doesn't always make sense in a world where we are forced to make decisions about how we feel, and how we should act. To detach from the ideas that come at us, is in some ways, a disservice to action when it is required.
How do we then, reconcile ourselves to common truths without owning every idea that comes at us? The answer to me, has always been to listen deeply. Listen to context. Listen not only to words, but how those words are applied - what are they in the service of? Have they been weaponized? Do they offer anything, and if so, what do they offer? What is the path they have taken to get to us?
As a reader, I've made it a sort of passion to play with, and learn from the works of others. I can't take it all on board because my brain would be filled to the brim. But after a long time reading someone's work, you start to see and hear the patterns that govern their lives, the part of themselves that they readily exploit, and the parts that they artfully dance right around.
One of my favourite quotes - it is written on the inside of my work notebook - is by the glorious and effusive Anne Michaels from her first work of fiction Fugitive Pieces: Truth grows gradually in us, like a musician who plays a piece again and again until suddenly he hears it for the first time."
Truth is sometimes like that. It's not always obvious, even though it's obviously there. We are absolutely mired, some days, in inflammatory rhetoric, cat photos, and for whatever reason, celebrity bottoms. But beyond the cats and bottoms, if you take one moment of sit down and digest what you know, perhaps file away the things that don't serve purpose, perhaps not shout at others who are also under the weight of their own ambiguous truthy burdens, there is a place where listening pays off.
I often work in silence. I sit on my couch, facing a large window, and the only thing I can hear is the whoosh of traffic outside, and the buzz of the refrigerator. These are the moments I take for myself to listen to myself, and to take what others are saying into account.
Not everything the world offers us is truth. Truth is found in patterns - not patterns that are coerced to fit an idea. These are naturally occurring patterns - they emerge, over time, by themselves, until they're too obvious to ignore.
But they only become obvious, if you sit. And you listen.
Some useful things to read: