Listening: Act III

This project is not going particularly well. Or it’s proceeding perfectly.

I am not succeeding in being a good listener, but I am becoming aware of how bad I am at listening. It’s uncomfortable knowledge, but I’d rather know it than not. Maybe this is the kind of thing God was talking about when he told us eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil led to death. Knowing I am not a good listener helps me see where I am doing evil and where I could do good, but this knowledge could easily eat me alive. I’m a gold-star junkie and the fact of my underperforming could commandeer this whole ship. Project Me could become the point all too easily. Which of course would miss the point entirely.

In order to stay the course, I need to get out of my own head a little bit this week. Nature has never failed me in this context: one of its miracles is the ability to authenticate my self through being something other than myself. It’s grounding. In attending nature, I realize both that my feet walk the soil and that I am not the soil.

My devotion this week (in addition to the hard work of observing my serial failure at the previous tasks) is to park in the furthest spot from the door each place that I go.

Will the distance force me to listen to the world (such as it is) around me? Will the inconvenience remind me of the physical challenges through which others engage the world?  Will the extra seconds make me conscious of the attitude in which I enter a space? Will dragging my four year-old from the back of every parking lot finally make me stop dragging her?

In A Thousand Mornings, Mary Oliver also finds a holy challenge in nature’s dispassionate response. This blessing on the work of the week before you:

“I Go Down To The Shore”
by Mary Oliver

I go down to the shore in the morning
and depending on the hour the waves
are rolling in or moving out,
and I say, oh, I am miserable,
what shall—
what should I do? And the sea says
in its lovely voice:
Excuse me, I have work to do.