Recently I was listening to Jennifer Warnes’s 20th Anniversary Album Famous Blue Raincoat (Digitally Remastered) and was struck again by the beauty of her voice and the power of Leonard Cohen’s lyrics in Joan of Arc (depicting a conversation between the flames of martyrdom and the lonesome heroine). The beauty of Joan was her incredible ability to listen (even to the consuming flames) beneath the noisy culture of her day. She could hear things that few others could or bothered to try. The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw who hailed from my mother’s city Dublin captures well her ability to really listen:
“Oh, your voices, your voices,” he said, “Why don’t the voices come to me? I am king, not you.”
“They do come to you,” said Joan, “But you do not hear them. You have not sat in the field in the evening listening for them. When the angelus rings you cross yourself and have done with it; but if you prayed from your heart, and listened to the thrilling of the bells in the air after they stop ringing, you would hear the voices as well as I do.
(George Bernard Shaw, Saint Joan)
Sitting in a field at night. Listening to the bells (or tree frogs) even after they stop ringing (or singing). Praying from our hearts. All of the above sounds remote to our crowded lives and hungry aspirations. We rush too much and are worried about too many things to stop and listen to the beauty of the harmonic overtones of the pealing bells. We end up like Dauphin, frustrated by his inability to hear what Joan hears—to hear what really matters—even as Jesus opined, “Those with ears let them hear…”
We live in a day where much listening is needed—to listen to our own hearts and to the voices of those around us. There is a great urgency for us to cut through the fog of our noisy world and listen to what really matters.
Our lives depend on it. Don’t you think?
Developing the listening heart takes being committed to listening and understanding the effort it takes.
Being in silence is a form of listening purposely.
Yes - the din is hard to hear over but we need to train our ears…