This page is my best friend. It is the letter I send to you, dear reader, my anonymous pen pal who knows not my return address. It is the ear that listens to my every word, considering each worry and emotion without judgment or interruption. It is the journal in which I write feverishly, chronicling my daily life and spilling my deepest secrets. This page is the therapist who will never require hourly compensation.
You see, ears no longer hear what emanates from the mouths of others. Hitting someone’s head against a wall would cause more sound to resonate within the confines of their skull than any syllable to come from your lips. People of today’s society hear only what they want, tuning out bad news, ignoring the inconvenient and disregarding reality in lieu of this fantastical utopia their minds have conjured to help buffer the horrible truth of our dwindling community. With so many aspects of our world falling to pieces right in front of our eyes, instinct tells us to shield ourselves from such atrocities. However, the more we try to hide from our troubles, the greater they become.
Our first lesson in listening came many years ago, when our parents taught us never to run from our problems, but to face things head on. Yet now, even those who raised us have plugged their ears, leaving the younger generations to try and rectify our crumbling economic and governmental pillars. They are the mess-makers; we are the maids.
But while we are a generation whose combined therapy bill amount must rival that of the national debt, the true problem doesn’t lie within the decisions rendered by elected officials, but by the lack of communication skills we have been breeding into the collective consciousness. Though many enter the field of communications, making said topic the basis of their study and livelihood, we continue to live in a society where a single opinion – the mere metaphorical act of “stepping on someone’s toes” – can launch a world of chaos. Though “communication” and “community” share a common root, most fail to listen to one another, increasing hostilities instead of harmony.
When you say you’ve heard what someone has said, the implications of your statement can be rather vague. Anyone can hear someone speak, aware that words are pouring from their lips, but they often neglect to pay attention, letting the syllables flow in one ear and right out the other. “But there’s none so blind… as those who will not listen,” according to Sweeney, one of many vessels who speak of universal truths in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (p. 43). When we fail to listen to another’s thoughts, feelings and concerns, we fail to see the commonalities that make us all human, the traits that unify every single being down to their very core. If we cannot hear the words of our brothers and sisters, we will never see the injustices, we will never right the wrongs. We will never learn to band together and we will never attain even a small fraction of that mystical concept called peace.
Sketch by Alyssa Papachristos.