When everyone talks, no one can listen

By Stephan Drew

Staff Writer

My father was in the U.S. Air Force from the 1950s up until the 1970s. Growing up in the military, one of the most important lessons my parents taught me was “just listen and learn.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard those words. But that guidance has come in handy throughout my life. Being the youngest of four children, I was the quiet one. This may come as a surprise to some who know me but it is true. I was the child standing aside, watching the others play and listening to how they interacted. I learned quite a bit about others by being the silent observer. I was thinking about this the other day. Are children taught to listen anymore? It seems we’re all so preoccupied with “speaking our mind” and “making our voices heard” that we have forgotten how to listen. For several years now, we have heard an awful lot of talk from everyone. No matter which side you’re on, it seems that it’s become more important to speak than to actually have something intelligent to say. Everyone wants to put their “two cents” in, often grossly overestimating the value of their verbal contribution. They want to tell their “side” of the story quickly, before truly calculating its worth. Yes, there has been a lot of talk. It seems everyone has an opinion that they must share, regardless of whether it makes sense or not. They are glad to share their views on politics, religion, the economy, health care, international relations, sports and every other subject. At first glance, this is a very good thing. People should be free to express their beliefs, no matter what they have to say. But not every thought that comes into our heads is worthy of being expressed. We live in an age where every tiny idea we have can be shared immediately. If you want to show all those on the internet what you had for dinner, you can. If you’d like everyone to know the crazy thought you just had, you can share it with the entire world. We have begun to think we are some sort of celebrities if we have a lot of “followers” on social media. Many people, young and old, have created an image (at least in their own minds) that they are “influencers” just because someone clicks the “like” button on their posts. They feel this gives them a certain status and places them above others around them. Of course, the people who see their posts have the same opportunity to share each and every tiny thought and action they have as well. But, perhaps, they have more intelligence. After all, one can laugh at a clown, and even applaud them, without wanting to become the clown. However, it seems we are seeing more clowns than ringmasters. Everyone is rushing to be silly and publish the first thing that comes to mind, regardless of the content, language or what harm it may cause. But, in this rush to get our thoughts out to the public, I think we have forgotten to ask a few very important questions. Is what we have to say helpful? Is it true? And, would the world be worse off if we just kept quiet about it? If you can answer yes to all these questions then, by all means, share your views. But, if the answer is no, it might be best to just remain silent. Of course, we haven’t seen very much silence in a long time. Most people are not talking to each other, they’re shouting at everyone. There’s a general feeling that if someone disagrees with you, they must hate you so you must hate them back. The loudest voices and most obnoxious personalities are the ones who don’t want any other voices heard. Many think that if they disagree with someone, they must do all they can to ruin that person – their home, family, business and reputation. Or, better yet, why not cancel them completely? Shut them down, drive them out and pretend they never existed. Why? Simply because you disagree? That’s a coward’s way. In a free country, we have the right to disagree. We have the right to debate and have a free exchange of ideas. That is, if you can find someone who will exchange ideas freely and courteously without shouting, humiliating or calling names. How did this happen? I’m not exactly sure but, somewhere along the way, debate turned into a verbal clash. “Take no prisoners!” seems to be the mantra of the day. How did we become these people? We live in the greatest democratic republic in the history of mankind. Our whole system was based on freedom of speech, freedom of (and from) religion, freedom to dream and pursue our dreams without harming anyone else in the process. We boast of our diversity. We pride ourselves in the fact that you can be whatever you want and believe anything you wish to in this country as long as you respect others. When did that morph into a desire to completely destroy someone else just because they don’t think the same way we do? When was the change officially made? And why didn’t I get the memo? No, we have changed drastically since my childhood days when I was taught to listen and learn. Everyone is talking and no one is listening. There is no way to get a point across because it won’t be heard. You can’t use your ears and your mouth at the same time unless you’re chewing. Even then, it’s somewhat difficult. There is so much talk that it’s not even intelligible anymore. It’s just a bunch of noise and there’s only one way to stop it. Remove yourself from the chaos. Turn off the television, put down your phone and enjoy the true peace and tranquility of life. Surround yourself with silence for a little while and you just might learn something.

Author: Stephan Drew

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