This past weekend I married in a short private ceremony that brought together briefly some of my and my husband’s families. I find myself thinking about some of what I learned about the human beings who encountered one another in this sacred time of beginning.
My witness is a woman who can talk and talk and talk, though she needs as much solitude as I do as well. She ended up lingering later at our house, along with my parents, two short human beings who are salt of the earth, practical types. My mother is mostly quiet (though surprisingly whimsical at times). My friend who was my witness found my father especially charming and humorous, as he made a toast while spilling a bit of it on my mother. But as we sat at my house afterwards, my witness to our wedding seemed to be soaking in deeply my parents’ attention to all the stories she was rapidly sharing. It was as if my friend were very thirsty for just the kind of stable, non-erratic human beings they were, however different from she in their aptitudes and interests.
It is true that my parents have grown used to meeting a number of eccentric souls through me — their daughter who needed to soak up a friendship connection with those who mirrored for me what my parents could not.
This weekend I also had lunch with my husband’s mother, whom I’m just getting to know. She too can talk and talk and talk. I learned a great deal about vital family history and immediate crises.
And last night I listened during two full periods of a hockey game to my 15 year old new nephew as he described the details of a world skateboarding tournament and various skate culture terminology. To be sure, I did introduce him along the way on a mini iPad to images of the Stanley Cup (which my husband promptly called an Idol), as it was passed to to each winning team member’s hometowns and drunk from and kissed. But my nephew longed to be heard with a sustained attention.
Like all of us.
What I find myself thinking is that the act of listening renders someone beautiful even when they need to talk and talk and talk. Do we not all need to talk and talk and talk? Some of us do it in rare to regular spurts; some of us do it constantly.
It may be a flaw not always to know how to make room for others to speak. But it is a pure and earnest flaw.
What is demonic is denial of what is true and good, the spirit of deceit or meanness –not a genuine stumbling forth towards human connection, out of a drive to express what is in us, even when it asks a lot of time and energy of others.
When we think about what might be difficult about another human being (or our own selves) for someone, I hope we’ll find that particular path of wisdom that resists tearing a person down for being challenging in some way for us.
A person who is reticent to speak at all can be far more of a challenge, and not only for those of us inclined to rapid chatter. But whatever our inclinations, let’s not let the valuing of silence and self-discipline in the Rule of Benedict lead us to confuse a life that is verbally intensely expressive with a life that is somehow walking a track away from goodness and light.
So long as it bears fruit to listen at length to one who talks and talks and talks, it is part of the dynamic of our accompanying one another in Christ and in the power of the Spirit, who can at times be quite windy when she’s speaking.