In today's mail, the November issue of 'Liguorian' magazine arrived with an article on listening that I wrote 18 months ago. It's called "Listen, Pray, Love."
As I read the printed version, with its new title and fancy design, I had the strange sensation of being someone else, as if the words and ideas I created last year were the work of another self. Maybe this was the result of the considerable editing that the article underwent: whole paragraphs were cut; others were moved. The result is better, tighter, over all. But seeing this new version came as a surprise.
We grow fond of our own carefully wrought drafts and forget that every piece of writing can be improved (mainly by reducing wordiness).
The other, more important point I discovered on seeing my article in print was to reflect on the main point: the lack of good listening I continue to observe in so many quarters. It's not that people who talk a lot but rarely stop to listen are entirely egocentric; it's just that their tension, and their habits, don't let them stop long enough in the rush of ideas and words so that they can pay attention to the person they're talking to.
It takes rare traits--patience and skill in listening--to give another person good attention. Most of us are in a terrible hurry; God, Kazantzakis wrote, is never in a hurry. Life unfolds as it must and can't be rushed.
But we, in our impatient rushing, upset this basic rhythm of life. The result is not mere miscommunication or frustration but a failure of love, of the communion between two individuals that comes only out of patient attention.