Destination: Some Place Else

…to get away for if only a moment

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29. The art of listening

It doesn’t matter where you are from, what gender, sexuality, race, social status you are, there is one thing that we all have in common and it is a beautiful thing. As they say, stories are what connect us and we all have many to tell. Storytelling after all is history, the present and it is the future. As far back as I can remember I have always loved stories. Even better, I have relished the idea of one’s imagination because it is vast and your very own to create. Our own capacity to create stories from words spoken, pictures, shapes, colours, photos, people-inspiration can be anywhere-and we all have that in common. Sometimes people forget or lose the ability to use their minds in that way and honestly, I am scared shitless of that possibility. Being able to escape or unwind or be captivated or moved by a story, be that real or fiction is one of my greatest passions.

Again, stories are what connect……I believe that. You might hear something and it might anger you, compel you to action, change you, sober you, sadden you or excite you. Stories are what makes you want to listen and be a better person, it can make us strive for more, reassess our own lives, it can make us cry or be happy. As I sit and I watch this generation pass by all looking down into their phones or various devices, I worry that are we forgetting one of our most important abilities-the art of listening?

We often text, or facebook message rather than ring each other and we have stopped our face to face or person to person interactions. Some people become so wrapped up in their own worlds that they forget to stop and truly listen to what another person may be saying. I’ve met people along my journey and realized as much as they are essentially good people, that they never have stopped to ask much about me and my story, who I am. Yet I can know so much about them. It is like any relationship you have in life, it should be a two way thing, it shouldn’t be one sided. If you ask a question of someone, you should want to know the answer.

I mean I haven’t forgotten the true beauty of reading either. What a wonderful way to learn and grow. Everyone gets their information differently. Often when I am on the tram or train and watch those people looking into their phones (and yes I can be the same at times too), I have realized that people don’t read books as much anymore. Maybe they are reading their Kindle, but the hard copy kind, one where you can smell the dust on the pages, that is my favourite. As much as I love creating my own stories, or watching amazing films, I will always take solace in curling up with a book and losing myself to the story that someone else has written. I can still use my imagination to create the visual world that they are creating. That can never be replaced with the latest visual technology to offer. If someone ever says ‘I’m bored,’ I am baffled as for me, there is simply not enough time in this life for all the stories. That is why I have spent years trying to read many of the classics.

Recently, I’ve been listening to ‘This American Life’ which is a weekly public radio show broadcast. This is definitely not a new concept; millions of people download the podcast around the world, for one reason; to listen. It brings back the joy of the radio broadcasts that my grandparents and parents would listen to when they were younger. Running since about 1995, TAL, is a testament to the fact that many people haven’t forgot to listen, in fact, they embrace it. My boss who has been a fan of it for years, told me about it. More recently, with my annoyance with commercial radio stations, I decided to listen elsewhere (I am still a fan of PBS and 774 with the odd RRR/JJJ thrown in as I haven’t forgotten the joy of listening to music either). With us living in such a visual world, it is a special thing when you can close your eyes, and be taken on a spectacular journey. Some of the stories are fictional, but most are real, served with a journalistic style that makes you waiting for the next piece of the puzzle. Usually, the weekly themes are broken into acts, but they all have one thing in common. They captivate you and intrigue you; they evoke some kind of emotion, which really is the pure essence of storytelling. Where you can realize that what some people think of as an ordinary story, can actually be quite extraordinary.

So stop, look up, smell the roses and listen to all that surrounds you. Know that every person you meet has a potential for greatness and that you can be affected by their stories. Yes, some people are great storytellers, others are better listeners, but searching for ways to harness these ideas are just part of the big picture. Even though I love my movie/TV marathons, I also encourage you to pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read or stream an interesting podcast. Or if you are sick of the meaningless chatter or ads that fill our radio content, feel yourself being brought down by road ragers, or like something to listen to whilst dining alone, click onto an audio book and feel inspired instead.

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