Not of life … life is too interesting, especially in this city. No, as we start a fresh, clean, and entirely possible year, I’m not tired of the general merry-go-round.
I am exhausted by the seemingly ineradicable hatred and violence we commit toward each other
But, I am even more tired … of talking about it.
Goodness knows I’ve always loved to talk. But it seems time to shut up and do something.
Time for action.
The problem is — the problem always has been — what sort of action?
It’s a new year! Why not try a new approach?
As our world seems to be falling apart, a world filled with conveniently destructive means of annihilating each other, talk seems useless. And by “talk” I mean verbal and written expressions of opinion, rules, points of view, shoulds and should nots, angers, and hatreds. They seem to be all we feel we can do to defend ourselves, justify the hopelessness, and to make it better somehow. If we can say what’s on our mind on Facebook, or anywhere that will let us, it makes us feel like we’ve defined ourselves in relation to the bad situation, and having defined ourselves, separated ourselves from it; protected ourselves. Words, as powerful as they are, can make indestructible walls. If we define ourselves, we separate ourselves from each other, and if there’s one thing this world cannot bear more of its separateness.
So my resolute New Year’s proposal?
We’ve been gifted with one mouth and two ears, and if all are in working order, this should indicate the rational ratio we could employ in the service of listening more and talking less. We also have two eyes, which, if employed properly, could go a long way toward seeing more clearly than talking too much. The world is filled with those who talk on and on, and they will be ever with us. So what I’ve decided to do is listen and attempt to not contribute to the general noise. Maybe if I listen, I’ll learn something, and make clearer sense out of what seems to be a confused, terrifying situation.
Straight/gay, Muslim/Christian, white/black, tall/short, wealthy/poor, privileged/homeless, Republican/Democrat, liberal/conservative, male/female, dog lovers/dog haters, gluten eaters/nongluten eaters, gun supporters/gun opponents, pro life/pro choice, water guzzlers/water conservers, pro bikers/antibikers, you/me …
And everyone is defending the side they are on, knowing somehow they are right. Because, of course, the thing is, every person thinks he or she is right, no matter what. And no amount of talk from the other side seems to be able to change anyone’s position.
So as they say, talk is cheap. I would like to propose the opposite notion that listening costs us. Talking so much we render ourselves unable to hear what the other person is saying. By sitting still and keeping quiet, maybe we’d all learn something. But that is hard for us to do because we’re scared and angry. It’s hard to sit still when such feelings are bouncing around inside us.
In 2016, though, I’m going to at least attempt to listen more.
Beginning my fifth year writing this column, this one was tough because I’ve generally used the space to celebrate our move from New York to San Francisco. Sure, I’ve railed against the Blue Angels, against motorists who roll through stop signs, and other assorted San Franciscan automotive habits. I’ve complained in a lightly kvetchy voice, about the dearth of trashcans and mailboxes on the streets, and the overabundance of bicyclists and pedestrians who pay no attention to the cars determined to hit them. But no matter what I’ve made fun of, I never wanted to preach.
However, the world entire is not as benign as San Francisco. The world is falling apart, and it’s hard to make fun of that.
So the action I propose for us all this month, as we start to wade into the future, is that we breathe deeply; sit still before dropping any bombs, either physical or verbal; and that we open our hearts, open our ears, and keep our mouths shut.
In other words: Don’t just do something, just sit there! And maybe we’ll magically understand what to do next to help heal ourselves, and through ourselves, help the world.