Why We Listen
by Dino Corvino on September 16th, 2012
Tonight I could not sleep. I would love to say it was because of some existential dread, or inspiration of the spirit, but honestly I gave up animal products as food recently and I fell off the wagon a few hours ago, and I am feeling uncomfortable, and a little out of sorts. So to combat the reality of passing gas in my house for hours, I went and sat in the grass outside and looked up at the stars. It is dark, and Weston where I live is silent save for the third shift sounds of Custom Glass. I decided to go for a walk.
Like I said it is silent about now; the folks who closed our taverns are mostly home, so there are no cars on the road and you can wander freely. I found myself walking over to what is my favorite part of Marathon County, the Weston Dog park, and I sat on a bench for a while there thinking about the park, and as I came home, I thought of this idea of Why We Listen.
You see in just a few hours from when I am typing this a group of people will arrive at the dog park. These folks all share something, a similar dog breed. Over time this has turned from a sort of informal group of strangers to an interesting sort of family. They tend to arrive at the same time each week, and one person brings coffee, others bring other things. My dog is not of the breed that they share, but I like to watch my dog interact with this particular breed because it makes me happy, so I tend to come at the same time.
What I find most interesting is the intimacy and dependance on each other that groups like this have in our lives. You see if someone does not show up unexpectedly, another person takes the initiative to check on them. At first with a text, just in case the person slept in, but escalating from there to phone calls and eventually visits to their house. When I went on vacation, even though my dog is the wrong kind, I made sure to let someone from the group know I was not going to be there and to not worry.
I did it because I did not want them to worry. I do not really know them, but in some way we feel connected. I do not know any of them in any large way outside of the dog park — really our friendship is based on this shared experience. But, this shared experience is the key.
The reason why we listen, why we make sure others are not worried, is because we share this experience of being here. I can sit down and make a long list as to what keeps you and I separate and different and isolated. You do not know me, we have not danced together at a friend’s wedding, for some people this page is all you actually know me for. For others, you have known me since grade school. Some of us went to Spain together and drank so much we were sick on the plane home (okay that was maybe just me) and maybe I rented a tux and took you to prom.
But, for every me, there is every one of you. I do not know you, but you went four wheeling with this other person I know, and he broke his collar bone but laughs so hard when he tells the story that I feel like I know you, even though we have never met. For every me, there is everyone of you. You who told my friend at work that I taught you to swim, and now your kids are learning to swim and I know your swim instructors parents, even though I have no idea who you are.
I do not know you, but we both live right here. And maybe this morning you are going to be at the dog park, and tomorrow you will read this and wonder which one of the people there I am (chubby dude in shorts and sandals and a Yankee cap).
I wonder if we took a second to realize that there is actually more that connects us than divides us, then maybe we all would (to steal from Jim Rosenberg) spend more time trying to find ways to say yes rather than no. Maybe we would realize that just because we give something to someone else, that we are not taking from our pile.
I think We Listen for the best reasons, and I wonder if maybe we should listen even more than we already do.