Listening


Some thoughts today on listening.

Listening is difficult for most people. We have somehow erroneously learned that the one who asserts, spouts or comments first is more likely to make a point, win an argument, or impress someone with alleged wit or wisdom.

Accurate and truthful communication requires clarity and simplicity and it requires listening. It means stopping to hear with a receptive mind and then processing what you heard. It’s an unfortunate condition that most people only hear what they want to hear because they don’t listen. How many of us, while looking like we are listening, are inwardly thinking of what we are going to say?

Competition in our culture puts a premium on self-expression. What we lack in knowledge, we sometimes make up for by talking fast, shouting or arguing.

Good listening is a virtue and a courtesy. It helps us to connect to the inner truth of a person. When that happens, serious conversations can go deeper. Arguments over meaningless accusations end and issues are more clearly understood and verbal conflict is reduced.

Maybe if we do it, it would spread to the television talk and interview shows. What a concept — LISTENING instead of interrupting!

A Solitary Hike

Some thoughts tonight on a solitary hike up a steep mountain trail. It wasn’t just hard walking, it was climbing and clinging and grabbing as I ascended a difficult nearly verticle path.

It was an intermittent misty and rainy day with a cool ambiance that more refreshed than chilled. Fog drifted up the climbing ledges in gossamer wafts of white and gray as the rain coated and washed the ascending trail into a slippery challange. Granite boulders, some the size of houses, festooned the path as I crawled, slid and climbed through rocky cuts, tiny cave like openings and up and down in crude rocky cuts and chimney climbs.

I loved the purity of the climb. The rain kept all other hikers, but one, from the slippery rocks and pine needle puddles and so it was just nature and me. Pristine and primal with occasional surprising vistas of the cliffs and lake below bursting through framed granite and conifer sculptures.

It was renewing and inspiring and an experience filled with fragrant ceremony for the eastern mountain laurel was in full bloom. Each pink and white blossom celebrated, not only with the mist of the day, but with seeming appreciation of just being the beauty it was.

I met a weasel who acknowledged my encroachment upon his home and path and a tiny wild finch who stayed much longer than expected singing on a branch not more than two feet away from my still and silent watch.

It was a glorious day.

When I got home and read the newspaper headlines I wondered, what are we doing to ourselves?

Floods


Some thoughts today on the week of middle America rain.
Flooding and destruction brings out numerous emotions in people.
There is understandable fear. Predictable panic. Tears. And the silent sorrow as the living wait for word of a missing loved one or for a body to mourn. People have died, some swept away by raging waters.
There are the questions of why and blame. Weeping with anger at God or circumstance, when the bottom of your heart and home is gone, is only a momentary relief.
Feeling compassion and comfort through the actions of others provides a greater comfort.
We watched the images of loss. We watched the rescues, the outstretched hands of help, and even hugs of understanding for those in shock and disbelief.
We saw horror and heroes.
We saw confusion and complaints.
But in this natural tragedy, we continue to see the greater gift of America. Visual and generous examples of community, cooperation and concern for others. What a gift.

Flag Day


Some thoughts on Flag Day.

It is this coming Saturday.

There was a time in our history when our flag was empty of experience. It had the symbolism of a United people and the expectation of greatness, but we were a young country and as yet had little collective history.

The United States wasn’t even a year old when Continental Congress adopted the design on June 14th, 1777. But now as we celebrate Flag Day this week, we remember that our flag is much more than red and white cloth stripes and symbolic stars in blue.

It’s everything that’s ever happened to this country and everything we’ve ever done. It’s victory and defeat. It’s protests and pageantry. It’s honor with humility and shame with remorse. It’s living and dying for principle.

Above all our flag is the waving symbol for all the world to see of our passion for liberty, our sustaining belief in the democratic ideal, our willingness to spend life and treasure for freedom for all.