Headphones Off. Love by listening.

September 8, 2011

Good at listening, and certainly has the power of presence.

An eventual ending may be the only possession common to all things. But they’re not often announced or discussed, are they? I don’t think about the finiteness of Fear.less whenever I sit down to blog. Endings are changes of state, and often either thought about too much or too little compared to what begins after it. They can be problematic but ultimately manageable, like Karen Armstrong’s end of her academic career that sent her down a path she is now grateful for,or they can be positive but so startling as to bring with them some trouble, like the end of John Thompson’s wrongful incarceration.

My summer is ending. Like all events relating to time, this is inescapable. But there are some endings we can choose, and some we seek. Many Fear.less contributors, particularly the entrepreneurs, chose to conclude their early careers – no longer investing effort and emotions in work that wasn’t for them. Others have, more abstractly, left low periods, emerging from darkness into light and being blinded and disoriented.

I have the general theme of ending on the mind, along with many things that can end, but writing this post I have found it a struggle to think of anything to say, and after a couple restarts it dawned on me that this is because our lives are a bunch of endings in a row. When Ben Zander said we have to lower the temperature of fear in those around us, he meant that we have a responsibility as human beings to help each other survive transition after jarring transition.

I am re-reading a book called The Power of Presence by Doug Manning. I found it on my grandfather’s shelf – he’s a priest. It’s one of the most quietly empowering books I know and I keep it in mind when I think about the inner mission of Fear.less – the heavy, somber stuff. It is about connecting to people in emotional need. A lot of people could use sympathetic connections – the elderly in care facilities, the grieving, and even those with no obvious tragedy in their lives but still pushing through all the changes and endings and losses. And the people who help them. And the people who help those people…

How can we help people better deal with constant changes of state? I’ve tried not to use Fear.less a crutch for this. It’s easy to say “Oh ho! I do this magazine thing that’s all about fear, here you go, maybe you’ll find something applicable!” Fear.less is a tool and a resource, and speaking in the latter capacity let me tell you about the greatest tool of all: the power to listen. Fear.less is ear.less (though there are many ways to get in touch with us). I have found that when I sit down to listen to someone, slowly, and shut out the frenzy of the outside world, I feel better about my own problems.

The strange relationship between listening, healing and insight is unintuitive and doesn’t really have a physical analog. Somehow, by talking to you and feeling like they are understood and not alone, a person can come to reach his own epiphany, without your advice, logic or trivialization. And most mysteriously, you benefit too.

If there’s anything I’d like to choose to end, it’s convenient silence. What insecurity or vulnerability is a person revealing without saying it outright? Digging deeper than their spoken words can reveal this. It probably has to do with the end of a state of their existence, and as a human being, you have much experience with this. You can help. We can all help.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Sonia August 20, 2010 at 8:12 am

Yes! I agree with was said above. There was a time when I worked for the Samaritans (here in Brazil it is called CVV) and could learn that only to listen to people talking about their problems it was a powerful tool to help them in solving their problems, or at least in finding an outlet for them, since it is the persons themselves who can find the best solution their problems.


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