The act of “deep listening” – or opening one’s ears to silence – has always permeated yoga and meditation, but today, it’s a lesson we must all take to mind.
Katherine O’Chee explores why.
Every day we hear and read about politicians participating in negative campaigns, ‘badmouthing’ and hurling insults at their opponents. Every day we watch media platforms use these same politicians in debates about whether or not climate change exists (as if we don’t have enough evidence already…). It’s no wonder that citizens of today’s world have grown frustrated at the ‘spin’ game that seems to govern much of our public sphere.
This is far from the ideal ‘public sphere’ that German philosopher-sociologist Jürgen Habermas envisioned in his groundbreaking book The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. In his vision, informed public opinion propels political action. Argumentation isn’t about arguing, but about collaborating, discussing and mutually listening to each other.
In Habermas’ words,
But in today’s world of social media, visibility has been made simultaneously easier and more difficult. Easier, because anyone with free access to the Internet can express their opinions to the world. But also more difficult, because when there are so many opinions out in the open, which do you listen to?
That’s why listening has become more important than ever.
It’s not simply about contributing our thoughts. It’s also about letting others contribute their thoughts – and it’s about staying silent when they do so.
Director of Radio ASAP, Shirley ‘Baglady’ Lewis, has an excellent method for doing this. She calls it “<60 sec70max”.
“In this game, Baglady and everyone else gets <60sec70max to make their point,” Shirley explains. “If anyone interrupts the speaker before 60 secs, the speaker gets another 60 secs. Then it’s someone else’s turn!”
This ‘game’ encourages active listening, and can be used in meetings, conferences and even conversations.
What we need to re-learn, now more than ever, is how to embrace our differences. The things that differentiate us from one another, are ironically the things that connect us as human beings.
As English poet John Donne famously wrote,
I like to use the analogy of a jigsaw puzzle. If every one of us were the exact same jigsaw piece, the puzzle would never be complete. But if each of us brought our unique perspectives to the table – our unique part of the picture, we have a far better chance at finishing that puzzle.
We must do the same for the climate crisis we now face.
Island nations and coastal nations alike are being threatened by rising sea levels. In mid-2016, according to The Conversation, “at least five reef islands in the remote Solomon Islands (north-east of Australia) [were] lost completely to sea-level rise and coastal erosion, and a further six islands [were] severely eroded.”
Moreover, Australian summers continue to grow hotter by the year, bringing with it more intense and frequent heatwaves. An ABC article said that this month bore witness to the hottest Sydney night in January since city weather records started.
In fact, according to Climate Council statistics, “hot days have doubled in Australia in the last 50 years.” This has all sorts of consequences on humans, the ecosystem as well as the planet, which you can read about here.
NOW is the time to listen – because we must listen before we act, if we want to act correctly and quickly and effectively.
Message from Director of Radio ASAP, Shirley ‘Baglady’ Lewis:
This is part of the reason why Radio ASAP has recently joined up with Ralf Bruegger, General Manager of the Escarpment Group, to hold a very special event on Sustainable Living, at the Hydro Majestic, Blue Mountains, on Tuesday January 31, 2017.
We’re bringing together individuals from environmentalism, tourism, politics and education, with the hopes of inspiring respect and listening.
Among those invited are leaders in the hotel and tourism industry in the Blue Mountains, plus representatives of key sustainably oriented business and community, who in large ways and small, are actively addressing the need for sustainability in energy, water, food, waste/recycling, etc.
We’ve also invited MPs Trish Doyle and Susan Templeman, and Blue Mountains Mayor Mark Greenhill – we know they will support us in any way they can.
Our keynote speaker and co-facilitator, Andy Best, is former principal of Harrington Park Primary, the first Eco-School in Australia. Andy trained with Al Gore, is a Churchill Fellow and has worked with a wide range of environment organisations in Australia. He recently presented a workshop for NSW Teachers’ Federation which was attended by about 200 delegates from all over the state.