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


Listening Till There's Nothing Left

Partrick Ridge, Mount Veeder Appellation, Napa Valley, California, USA

December 13, 2020

This essay, Listening Till There's Nothing Left, is the eleventh in a group of eleven on Listening: I am indebted to Aaron Bartlett who inspired this conversation.

We've all experienced it: that rug-yanked-out-from-underneath  feeling we get when we think we're being listened, only to unceremoniously realize we aren't.

You're in a conversation, face-to-face or not, in the flesh or online (as has become de rigueur  these days). You're in the middle of making a critical point. It's a point which you're actually creating / coming to grips with for yourself as you speak it, just as much as you're recreating it out loud for the person listening - in other words, your speaking is getting both  of you clear on what you're saying, just in the very ordinary process of you saying it.

There's a sense of impending satisfaction, a tangible onset of reached accomplishment and fulfillment as you get near the moment of being fully and totally expressed in what you're saying ie of being fully and totally heard (or fully gotten  if you prefer). And then, at exactly that critical moment  ... the person listening looks away, or yawns, or appears to be distracted by something else going on (or a combination of some or all of the above) or in some other way lets on they're not listening at all.

Your momentum is suddenly blunted, your energy build-up / anticipation deflated like a balloon by the point of a pin. The moment's gone, the opportunity lost. You're let down. Continuing to speak is no longer an option - in any case, you'd have to start all over if you want to make your point, and you wonder, stopped, thwarted, frustrated, if starting over is worth it, your trust in their listening irrevocably shaken. "Are you listening?" you ask ... but you already know the answer. "Excuse me?" says your listener, now feigning attention again, caught red-handed, "I'm sorry, what?", to which "Forget it!" or "Oh, never mind" are two of the common responses.

We all have, know, and remember experiences like that when they happened to us - which is to say when they were done to us. Yet it's almost axiomatic  that if we're to listen others  authentically, we first have to discover we never  listen, and we never will (as Werner may have said). So what we don't quite so readily remember (if we tell the truth about it) is we've not listened others just as much as (if not more than) they've not listened us. Why "if not more than"? The answer is: because of the frustration inherent in such experiences, we're likely to remember those done to us by others, more than we're likely to remember those done by us to others.

Compare the all too common experiences of not listening fully and attentively, to the experiences of listening fully, attentively, and completely, and continuing to listen unabated until the speaker has nothing left to say, having fully expressed all of it. This is the world of listening till there's nothing left. It's in total contradistinction to / it's the complete antithesis of that other "Excuse me?" / "I'm sorry, what?" world of the incomplete listening experience which is satisfying to neither the speaker nor the listener. And compare that to this  world in which both  the act of speaking and the act of listening (and  the act of being listened)  are satisfying to both the speaker and the listener (there's a certain magic that goeswith  complete communication / complete speaking and complete listening - as Alan Watts may have said).

At this juncture I'd like to introduce the idea that "Excuse me? / I'm sorry, what?" listening, is (in a word) untransformed  listening. On what basis do you assert that, Laurence? On the basis that there's no presence of Self, and no listening till there's nothing left - which requires being fully present (and empty) to another's speaking. That  would be transformed listening: when there's presence of Self, and listening till there's nothing left. And please notice (so our focus isn't distracted) that even without deploying either of those two particular descriptors ("untransformed" / "transformed" listening), there's a known, getable difference between their two worlds.

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