Today, information bombards us like a meteor shower. It’s everywhere.
Each day our eyes see thousands of images on television, smart phones and screens. Our ears hear many thousand words. A few still read thousands of words on the printed page.
People text and talk. They Facebook and walk. They Twitter and Tweet. They blog and beep. They Bluetooth – didn’t know that was even a word until a decade ago. One thing I do know – Bluetooth should not be used as a verb.
Folks who can’t speak our own English language “good” are creating their own new language every day. Good, your choice of words, not mine. That’s a whole ‘nother story.
Doesn’t anyone listen or read anymore?
Wise men and women throughout history have told us we ought to be doing more of this. Listening to people, music and reading books. Give your eyes a rest from the video world.
I listen to music every day. The earliest music I remember hearing was probably the big-band sounds of Tommy Dorsey or Benny Goodman in the early 1950s on my mom and dad’s 78 record player.
And just so you don’t think, I’m anti-new technology, I started listening to my own iPod 18 years ago.
I’ve recorded more than 200 albums and CDs including Dylan, Led Zeppelin, Little Richard, Iris DeMent, Hank Williams, Handel, Mozart, Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Robert Johnson, Willie Dixon – bluegrass, blues, classical, jazz rock – you name it, I listen to it on my small, wafer-thin, black music box.
Yep, eight GB of memory, 2,094 songs and 5.8 days of music and that’s not counting several hundred LPs (long-laying vinyl) and CDs at home. Analogue remains the best for sound quality, it has no equal. And I don’t do much live streaming. I’d rather select my own music favorites to listen to.
Reading is another passion. I can’t begin to think of how many books I’ve read during the last 60 years. I read every day and sometimes I have two or three books going at the same time.
One of my favorite authors, Leo Tolstoy (War and Peace and Anna Karenina), used to choose a theme and offer a wise thought for each day of the year. He coupled this with quotes from some of the greatest philosophers of all times.
Here are a few of the thoughts on which Tolstoy and others reflected. Most have to do with listening.
After a long conversation, stop and try to remember what you have just discussed. Don’t be surprised if many things, sometimes all things you discuss, are meaningless, empty and trivial.
“A stupid person should keep silent. But if he knew this, he would not be a stupid person.” – Saadi.
If you want to be a clever person, you must learn how to ask cleverly, how to listen attentively, how to respond quietly and how to stop talking when there is nothing more to say.
“People whose only motivation is to say something original utter many stupid things.” – Voltaire.
If you have time to think before you start talking, think.
Will what I have to say harm anyone? Is it necessary to speak?
Nothing can support idleness better than empty chatter. People would do better to keep silent rather than speak the boring, empty things they routinely say to entertain themselves.
“First think, then speak. Stop when told, ‘enough.’” – Saadi.
Those people speak most who do not have much to say.
People are taught to speak, but their major concern should be how to keep silent.
“I have spent all my life amongst wise people, and I have found nothing better than silence in this world. If a word costs one coin, then silence costs two.” – Talmud.
Keep silent. Rest your tongue more often than you do your hands. You will never regret that you have kept silent, but you will often regret that you spoke too much.
“Do not say words you do not feel, lest your soul be blackened with darkness.” – The Book of Divine Thoughts.
Silence is golden. Listen.
John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.