Sunday, December 28, 2014


I’ve mentioned elsewhere my packrat tendencies, and this time I have the ultimate example.
In an old file I’ve found the handwritten composition I wrote for a highschool English class in 1949. For me this is akin to an archeologist discovering the papyrus that will later define a whole civilization.
OK, that’s a bit much; but it was the start of something.  It’s titled “The Science of Listening,” and I remember very distinctly it was a response to the activity of another guy in English 7-5 who, it seemed to me, never stopped talking. Worse, the technique was working for him. Dr. Mercier seemed to be taken in, responding to Peter's eager volunteering to read his work in class and awarding him high grades.
This paper, as you’ll see below, was my scathing riposte. Sixty years before the invention of snark!

The Science of Listening
      “Hearing, while one of the most valuable natural gifts we possess, is also one of the most underrated. It is our greatest aid to learning, our strongest tie with the world around us, for what we cannot see, we may hear of, and hearing of it we may picture it in our minds.
      “But we have not yet reached the crux of the matter, for hearing is not listening. Hearing is a natural endowment. Listening is an acquired virtue, and a science in itself. Hearing is the curse of knowing noise. Listening is the power of concentrating sound and arriving at a single product.
      “It is a curious fact that man has not the power to talk and listen at the same time. The need therefor becomes felt for a medium of transmission, a switchboard through which the tangled lines of articulation and absorption may be sorted out. This need was filled by the invention of silence, the discovery of one of the unsung benefactors of humanity. 
      "Like every great soul he was ridiculed and humiliated. 'Silence will never work!' they said. 'You’re not taking an interest in the world if you don’t make noises with your mouth.' There were even those who believed that the way to get an education was to keep their mouths open rather than their ears. So they ridiculed the great man, as to this day his disciples are reviled.
      “But we digress. With the coming of silence, listening came into its own. Man found that by remaining quiet himself he was better able to concentrate on the sounds others were making. Through further development and practice he found himself able to distinguish the pertinent facts from the rest of the sounds. In this way he greatly facilitated his education.
      “However, listening has not yet been fully accepted for what it is worth. Rather, since it is accompanied by silence, it is sometimes taken as the mark of the disinterested or unintelligent. It still has a long hard climb ahead before it reaches universal acceptance, and until it does, listening must remain a lost art rather than a science.“

A little confusion there at the end between art and science, but you get the idea.
There was just one problem: I was too modest -- or insecure -- to volunteer to read it aloud in class. No one has ever seen or heard it until now.