NICHOLS: if you have ears

If you have ears... Don’t we all have ears? Of course; just notice those buds stuck in the sides of the heads! But some have sharper hearing than others. Some hear the high notes. Some hear the low notes. Some don’t hear notes. Everyone has ears.
If you have ears... Fifteen times in the ancient scrolls and parchments the prophet ends his message with this admonition: If you have ears, then listen. Clearly, the metaphor speaks of more than superficial sound recognition. It refers to a message that demands closer scrutiny than one might give to the passing of a gust of wind or the tuneless screeching of dueling cats in the night. The message requires analysis, evaluation, reflection, and, indeed, action.
Listening at more than the superficial level of sound recognition and reflexive response is not a highly-developed skill in these skittish times. Certainly it is not a skill supported by much that occupies our post-modern way of life as we dash or shuffle along, heads bowed, eyes glazed, thumbs busy in this mad human race. We have conditioned ourselves to hear without analyzing, without evaluating, without reflecting; but especially we have conditioned ourselves to no rational response. In submitting to the noise of the rush and the rushing of the noise we have seriously impaired our capacity to hear at the deep level.
We became incapacitated without our knowledge, if not without our consent. First we taught ourselves to love the noise that demands no response, in fact, to which meaningful response is not possible. We soon transferred this learning to other areas of life. When responding effectively to life’s experiences was inconvenient, painful or costly, we applied our new skills by ignoring the experiences or pretending they really didn’t happen. Eventually we became truly comfortable with not responding.
We learned to enjoy the comfort, then require it. Without our notice, we descended from our high estate as alert and responsive human beings to that of little above a mere life form. I am reminded of poet Alexander Pope’s (1688-1744) observation: Vice is a monster of such frightful mien / As to be hated needs but to be seen. / But seen too oft, familiar with his face, / We first endure, then pity, then embrace.
    Do we know what our post-modern society has embraced?
    Notice these few examples: The noise of advertising urging us to more, more, more, different, replacement, new, better, all new; we tolerate, even applaud non-stop political noise with its anger, vitriol, and toxic messaging; we generate the rasping, grating sound of popular opinion with its placards and shouting – to which nobody is listening – really listening
    The addictive noise of social media seems to alienate and separate more than it draws together. Do I have to describe. Maybe you still have enough brain power at your command to analyze your own habits.
    In this age of repetitive, empty information, our minds can be overwhelmed, sated with the frenetic, frenzied, feverish vibrations called noise. What do we do with it? What can we do with it? Store it? Duck it? No need; we’ll hear it again next hour and every hour until we can’t stand it further.
Said the prophet: if you have ears – if you can still hear, if you have not destroyed your ability to analyze, evaluate, reflect, and act on this message – then listen to what the message says to you.  
In this age of (mis)information it is not natural or easy for us to listen with serious intent. Naturally, we prefer the pleasing sounds of music and laughter. We prefer anticipating the next ten-second text just to keep our thumbs busy. We prefer to smoke our brains. We prefer the titillation of other people’s sins. We prefer to shut out the uncomfortable call to real, personal, costly action. In fact, we prefer almost anything to the knowledge that requires a response.
The call is still ringing in our ears, it’s not tinitis: If you have ears, then listen. Listen. Listen if you can. Now, when the opportunity to act may still exist, we need unimpaired capacity to hear, understand, and respond. We cannot keep our deafening diversions and titillations and have our hearing too. There are choices to be made. There could be a point of no return when the voice of reason and the call to real action cannot be discerned in the cacophony of noises competing for our fragmenting attentions – and for our souls. Now is the time to listen and act. That action could involve divorcing the device.  
If you have ears.
By the way, an ancient parchment has this wisdom for the post-modern senses: “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s mind has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.”
But there is a remedy.

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