Now and then we read something which touches a nerve and makes an impact. Several years ago while immersed in Virginia Woolf’s novel “To The Lighthouse” I saw an unpleasant image of myself and set the book aside for six months. What I saw had embarrassed and even shamed me.
The story revolves around the Ramsey family, their children and guests vacationing on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Told in Woolf’s ‘stream of consciousness’ style I recognized some dodgy traits in Mrs. Ramsey, some of which were unfortunately my own.
One of those habits, common to most of us, is what I have begun calling “staying in our own moment”. A case in point in the Woolf novel involves a stroll through the garden with Mr. Ramsey who is relating his thoughts to his wife, who is happily entangled in her own thoughts, unaware and uninterested in what Mr. R seems to find important.
Our ideas seem to take precedence over others far too often. I realized that I am guilty of this as well as being impatient for someone else to finish their opinion so that I can offer my own far superior one.
Are we all only half-listening? Will others like us more when they hear what we have to say? Are we more important than they are?
The advent of the smart phone gave people the excuse to stay in the same room with other living organisms without actually having to talk or listen to them. Whole groups can sit in silence, heads bent over their own device while a single speaker regurgitates his thoughts.
It’s not a pretty picture, and I don’t know the answer, but I’m working on it.