The Problem with Listening

"The problem with listening, of course, is that we don't. There's too much noise going on in our heads, so we never hear anything. The inner conversation simply never stops. It can be our voice or whatever voices we want to supply, but it's a constant racket. In the same way we don't see, and in the same way we don't feel, we don't touch, we don't taste...The essential activity of listening requires at least a minimal point of attention. And that allows us to keep the flow of attention uninterrupted."

~ Philip Glass, "Listening to Philip Glass," Tricycle Magazine, Fall 1999

See also: "A Conversation with Philip Glass," Studio 360, September 14, 2012 

Listen to the Music of the Traffic in the City

“The song written by an Englishman about an American city whose promise of togetherness really yields loneliness sung by a white Parisian woman everyone thought was black.”

~ From “Pop Music: Songs that Cross Borders,” Radiolab, April 21, 2008

When you're alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go - downtown
When you've got worries, all the noise and the hurry
Seems to help, I know - downtown
Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?

The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares
So go downtown, things'll be great when you're
Downtown - no finer place, for sure
Downtown - everything's waiting for you

Don't hang around and let your problems surround you
There are movie shows - downtown
Maybe you know some little places to go to
Where they never close - downtown
Just listen to the rhythm of a gentle bossa nova
You'll be dancing with him too before the night is over
Happy again

The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares
So go downtown, where all the lights are bright
Downtown - waiting for you tonight
Downtown - you're gonna be all right now

[Instrumental break]

And you may find somebody kind to help and understand you
Someone who is just like you and needs a gentle hand to
Guide them along

So maybe I'll see you there
We can forget all our troubles, forget all our cares
So go downtown, things'll be great when you're
Downtown - don't wait a minute for
Downtown - everything's waiting for you

Downtown, downtown, downtown, downtown ...


Thirsting for Silence

From “Author of the Week: Anne LeClaire,” The Week Magazine (April 10, 2009):

I am having a day of silence. If you were to run into Anne LeClaire on April 6, she wouldn’t talk to you, said Anne Stein in the Chicago Tribune. Every first and third Monday of every month, the Chatham, Mass., novelist carries a card that reads, “I am having a day of silence.” Don’t expect to get through to her by phone, either. On those days she also refuses to listen to the radio, watch television, or surf the Internet. “My single determination when I began was not to speak,” she says of a practice she first undertook 16 years ago. “But the more comfortable I became with silence, the more I thirsted for it, and the sounds I’d accepted unquestionably became noise.”

Listening Below the Noise In her new memoir, Listening Below the Noise, LeClaire admits that her experiment in playing mute at first annoyed her fisherman husband, said Julia McKinnell in Maclean’s. LeClaire points out now that her silence has saved him more spats than he knows. “How many times do we jump into an argument when, if we waited a day, our words would be tempered?” she says. Keeping mum apparently puts everything in perspective. “Much of what we think is urgent,” she says, “can wait a day or two.” She’s convinced that holding her tongue has also made her more creative and productive. Every day spent in silence is so energizing, she says, “I feel like I’ve been to a spa.”