2010s: Exercises in Listening Seven meditations to facilitate contemporary listening

"New Horizon" by ƝƖƇƠ ƬƖMΣ ™

We are celebrating the end of the decade through lists, essays, and mixes. Join us as we explore the music that helped define the decade for us. More from this series


“I don’t think bells ask questions.”
-Mary Ruefle

Introduction

I don’t believe that the last decade can be easily summed up. I do believe, however, that how we listen has changed to some degree. We can quantify this and analyze this, but only insofar as we can define listening — and it’s not clear that we will ever have a shared definition. To listen to something is, inherently, to ascribe value to it, and we are living in increasingly devalued times. That said, however you define listening, there is evidence enough that we listen less than more (even while hearing more than ever before). Fortunately, the effects of this decade can be entered into contemplatively. The recommended meditations below are some suggestions for doing so.

In many ways, these meditations are sequential, and each one assumes the “growth” that the previous meditation provided. In other ways, these meditations are non-sequential and assume nothing about where you’re at or who you should be while reading them. (You’ve blessedly made it this far without my help!) They are not all-or-nothing. They are not designed as a spiritual program. Rather, they’re intended to facilitate listening to contemporary music and, through a larger reach, contemporary humans and non-humans, things, and, loosely speaking, nothing at all.

Lastly, to the extent that these meditations privilege something like “silence” is a foundational, rather than a day-to-day, concern. It’s true, daily life can’t be lived without some foundation, but foundations are not inextricable from daily life either. At best, I think, we can hope for more moments of coherence than less. For the first time, this decade, I learned to hear myself positioned between two chickadees and their babies. I listened to the variations in their chips as they flew above and away from me. I listened to them tell me about myself in relation to them. It was not a happy story or an unhappy story. But, in the end, regardless, it felt like a small victory over my own tendencies.

We are celebrating the end of the decade through lists, essays, and mixes. Join us as we explore the music that helped define the decade for us. More from this series


Most Read