We Need to Hear Other People

"People need to talk. And often, a willingness to sit and listen is the greatest kindness one person can offer another. One of the first lessons of childhood is to be wary of strangers. And while this is good counsel to guard against the world's very small nefarious element, it also teaches us to block out the large majority of those who just have something on their minds they'd like to say. We are taught to be suspicious, especially of anyone who might not look like us or What Now? by Ann Patchettshare our beliefs. By the time we reach adulthood, many have perfected the art of isolation. Of being careful. Of not listening in the name of safety. But the truth is that we need to hear other people—all people—especially in those moments when we don't know exactly where we're going ourselves. When it comes to finding our way, we're better off taking in as much information from as many sources as possible...For the most part, wisdom comes in chips rather than blocks. You have to be willing to gather them constantly and from sources you never imagined to be probable. No one chip gives you the answer for everything. No one chip stays in the same place throughout your entire life. The secret is to keep adding voices, adding ideas, and moving things around as you put together your life. If you're lucky, putting together your life is a process that will last through every single day you're alive."

~ Ann Patchett, from What Now? an essay based on the commencement address she gave at Sarah Lawrence in May 2006