Comfort and Listening

In all my years on this earth, one of my favorite memories is Mama reading to me at bedtime, like Bible stories, Little Golden Books, stories of heroes, and even tales of talking trains and construction equipment. I remember her reading a set of books called “Bedtime Stories” and a year or two later, I read them myself.  There were Bible stories and stories about children, primarily pointing out the difference between those children who are bad and those who are good. The stories were heavy and moralistic, sometimes even frightening to me as a child, but they were still books. Hearing Mama read them sometimes made me listen to her voice and not really the words. I remember the feeling I had then, but not her voice, and wish now I could remember the sound of her voice.

Retirement has given me the gift of time – a lot of time. There are times to do chores (which can be put off if necessary or even by choice), times to nap, periods for knitting or reading, and even watching TV. I often have to choose which I want to do more, read or knit, since I cannot do both at once. I can read and watch TV (which I had done for years) and knit and watch TV, but I cannot read and knit simultaneously. This has been my quandary. 

Until I found my solution. My e-reader allows me to access a program that reads books aloud to me while I knit! It seems like the best thing since Mama. Granted, I have to pay for the books, but I purchase only books I know I will like, as I will probably listen to them as many times as I read the digital copies. I have no compunction about not re-reading books. There are moments when I can recite a section of a book I am listening to because I have read it so many times in digital form.

All that got me thinking about the importance of listening: most of us are born with five active and working senses: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching. We use those senses to learn about the world, the people who are our parents and siblings, and our teachers. We listen to lessons and learn how to read by matching the sound of words to letters written on the board, but we must listen to know how to match the sounds to the words. To learn, we must learn to listen, a task that, in my mind, is much harder today since we have so many distractions.

In the Bible, we learn about people hearing Moses, the prophets, holy people, and rabbis. There were no books, handouts, bullet points on a big screen behind the speaker, or even paper and pens to take notes. People had to listen and remember what was said, then return to their own families or communities and correctly transfer the knowledge they had gained to those who could not be there themselves. 

People were more attuned to listening and “reading” people by paying attention to what they said, how they said it, and what their body language told them.  Scripture was essential and had to be transferred from one generation to another without error or change. We are told that in Jesus’ day, as in the millennia before, listening was the primary way of learning, and learning was the way to pass important information to the next generation in turn. 

We do not listen so much anymore. We have our heads stuck in earphones or buds, the radio, television, cell phones, and just about any other communications devices we can carry around or sit and play with. If someone else is talking, quite often, we are busy in our own heads formulating a response to what we believe we heard, not necessarily what was said and how. As for reading body language, we are often too busy to notice. 

Sitting and listening to my audiobook, whether my hands are busy with something that does not require much attention or not, has reminded me of the importance of not just hearing but allowing me to be immersed in what I hear. There are times when I need the sound of education that teaches me something I need to know, while at others, I need it to be like a security blanket, comforting, soothing, and familiar. 

I hear my audiobook calling. There is another chapter or so to listen to before bedtime. I must decide whether to read a chapter from a Christian history textbook or a cozy mystery book based in a comfortable little town. Decisions, decisions. 

Image: Die Gute Nacht Geschichte, Felix Schlesinger (1833-1910), From the Palais Dorotheum, Vienna.  Found at Wikimedia Commons.

Linda Ryan is an Education for Ministry mentor, an avid reader, a Baroque and Renaissance music lover, and a fumbling knitter. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter and lives near Phoenix, Arizona.

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