Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


You Never Have And You Never Will

Somewhere At 39,000 Feet Over Reykjavik, Iceland

February 20, 2014

This essay, Listening: You Never Have And You Never Will, is the sixth in a group of eleven on Listening: It is also the sequel to a group of three written in Denmark / Sweden, February 2014:
  1. Air You Can trust
  2. In Churches, Museums, And Castles
  3. Spirit Of Generosity
in that order.

It is also the fifteenth in an open group inspired by Landmark Programs: It was written at the same time as Spirit Of Generosity.

I am indebted to all Landmark Advanced Course graduates, participants, producers, and leaders worldwide, and to its source who inspired this conversation.

Here's a paradox if ever there was one: if you claim to be in a transformed conversation, in particular if you claim to be in a transformed conversation about listening, and you say "I hear what listening is", you don't. That's not listening. That's never what listening is - not when language is deployed rigorously. Hearing and listening occur in separate domains.

The truth is you can't hear what listening is. Hearing has no access  to listening. My intention in this conversation is to differentiate cleanly between hearing and listening.

A Distinction So Fine A Razor Struggles To Intervene

For starters, the ability to listen isn't something we're born with - that is to say listening  isn't something we're born with. Listening is not your birthright. If you can hear, however, that's  an ability you're born with. It's hearing you're born with, not listening. Listening is learned, then exercised. Hearing, on the other hand, doesn't have to be learned. And it's a reflex  so exercising it isn't an option. No one hears as an act of intention. No one hears creatively. No one hears as an act of creation. Like lizard brain  pulls your hand away from a hot stove, hearing is lizard brain registering noise. Hearing by lizard brain requires neither intention nor creativity. It's just machinery. Your vote isn't required.

Listening, on the other hand, is always  an act of intention. Listening is always creative. Listening is always an act of creation. And (get this) listening is always an act of generosity. Hearing, in contradistinction, doesn't require generosity. It's simply the default noise receptor.

You don't have to be present in order to hear. When I say you don't have to be present in order to hear, I mean it quite literally. I mean you don't have to bring your Self to the speaker  in order to hear. In order to hear, all that's required is your ears in physical proximity to the origin of the noise, and hearing happens automatically (lizard brain). You can even hear when you're asleep, yes? Listening, on the other hand, requires your presence ie listening requires you bring your Self to the speaker. Unlike hearing, you can't listen when you're asleep.

So if you say to me (as you may do, from time to time) "I hear you", I say "Big deal. 'I hear you' is playing too small.". Your role, your presence to me in hearing me, isn't even required. Listening, on the other hand, isn't possible  if you're not present to me. Listening is differentiated from hearing to the degree you're present, or not.

Listening's Mantra  "You Never Have And You Never Will"

Now, here's the thing: mostly when it comes to registering noise, we hear but we never listen. Mostly when it comes to listening, you've never listened and you never will listen. Listening calls for something extra. It calls for a certain generosity to bring my Self to the speaker. Listen (really!): it's not a personal flaw, it's not a personality fault or aberration of failure that we don't listen (so relax ...). Rather, it's simply the human pull  of the machinery which devolves listening into hearing. It takes a certain intention, a certain bringing forth presence of Self to listen when people speak ... and then to have the courage, the brassiness, the boldness, the daring, the verve, and the audacity to do it all over again  when the human pull of the machinery devolves listening into hearing again, which it surely will - and it surely will more sooner than later.

All "I hear you" says is "My machinery registers you're making noise.". Big deal, yes? "I listen  you", on the other hand, while not common English use*, says "I'm present with you and with what you're speaking, and I'm newly, openly, and freshly re-creating (even co-creating) with you what you're speaking, and I'm not merely comparing what you're saying to the noise already in my own head.". The generosity of listening requires you put aside the noise already in your own head. The generosity of listening calls for me to bracket  that noise when you're speaking (and for you bracket it when I'm speaking).

It takes nothing to hear. It calls for everything  to listen. That's why it's said about authentic listening "You never have and you never will.".

* Language provides the tools for generating and sharing my experience ie it provides the words and the vocabulary for generating and sharing my experience. Occasionally these tools in my toolbox are inadequate  for generating an experience I intend to share. For example, a tool may not be as sharp  as it needs to be. If so, I can render inadequate tools adequate in the context of Conversations For Transformation by tightening the definitions of words and inscribing them in The Laurence Platt Dictionary. Or I can sharpen a tool ie I can sharpen my language in the context of Conversations For Transformation by adding rigor.

So whereas "I hear you" is common English use, it's not a rigorous rendition of the experience of listening I intend to generate and share. That's why I prefer "I listen you" even though it's not common English use, and even though when I deploy it (and I do, often) it drives the grammatical purists crazy.

One last thing: it's "I listen you" like "I hear you", not "I listen to  you.". Saying "I listen to you" in this context would be as un-sharp as saying "I hear to you.".

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