Listening, Lighting Fires, and Laughing Uncontrollably

“It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

Listening is an enabler, for love, learning, understanding, advising, taking action, and a whole lot more. Listening allows us to process speech, convert emotions, build thoughts, and plan reactions. Listening balances expression; if our speech, tone, and visible emotions lift us up, it’s our ability to subsequently listen that gets us back on the ground.

But a problem is that listening requires input – input that is not always there and is entirely dependent upon another party. It’s not entirely common that the speaker knows what to say or is able to sufficiently express the thoughts, ideas, and feelings that tread his or her mind.

Accordingly, the responsibility to effectively navigate this two-way street goes to both parties. As a listener, it’s important to enable effective input through a variety of measures, such as setting the tone, establishing trust, and asking the right question.

An additional tactic for effective two-way communication that enables the most intellectually profitable form of listening, is to light a fire that is easily put out. By lighting the light fire – an easily distinguishable one that gives the reader some initial motivation – more valuable data is exchanged between parties, fueled by more sincere emotion of those parties. As a result, our collective knowledge grows and wisdom prevails while the relationship still gets stronger.

Listening is not just sitting back and acting interested; listening is active participation in the conversation, and in particular, invoking in the speaker the right drivers for speech and expression. At the end of the day, we are all people, and all have things to say, opinions to share, and feelings to express. We should embrace each conversation as a two-way street and ensure we optimize the result of that conversation by using all tactics at hand. Let’s all be active listeners.

“To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well, and is as essential to all true conversation.” – Chinese Proverb

Well my post is actually done, but as I was scanning the web for some good images that might be representative of the above, I somehow stumbled on this one below, and burst out laughing as a result. C’mon, that’s worth a good hearty chuckle!

String Theory, Email Threads, and Happiness

Our lives are made up of millions of threaded moments in numerous conscious and subconscious dimensions. Identifying these threads – from multiple emails to time volunteering to a loving relationship – and making them last, making them stronger, and weaving them through multiple life dimensions is a key to health and well-being.

String theory attempts to relate multiple disparate concepts about our universe into a more unifying framework. Specifically, it states that subatomic elements (electrons, quarks, bosons, etc) are not three-dimensional objects but rather are one-dimensional strings that vibrate to take on semi-measurable characteristics (mass, spin, flavor, charge). Additionally, string theory posits that our universe is made up of unobservable dimensions that, at the most basic level, provide some sort of logical consistency to the known laws and theories of the physical (and metaphysical) world.

Well on a more macro level, our lives are very much made up of strings and dimensions. For our purposes, let’s just call them threads. Threads are made up of several connected points spanning one to many dimensions of our lives. These threads are our conversations, our friendships, our good deeds, our actions, and our spontaneous thought streams – the basic units by which we live our life. Our life dimensions are our jobs, families, friends, teams, systems, cultures, and countries, as well as our core knowledge, ideas, and feelings  – the encompassing elements by which our lives fundamentally exist. And finally, our lives have outputs too! They are our health and our well-being, our happiness, our faith, our understanding, and the meaning we extract from the world.

Think about some threads of your life:

  • Email Threads – Maintain a steady stream of conversation to build new knowledge, ignite new thought, and establish a strong connection with someone.
  • Volunteering – Show up when you don’t feel like it, encourage others to work harder, and continually establish yourself as a reliable and dependable contributor to society.
  • Love & Relationships – Always give to, and never give up on, the ones you love most in this world.

So now to the crux of my point: these life threads are the critical inputs to ensure our happiness and well-being are properly sustained, cultivated, and shared. By identifying these basic units, making them stronger, tying them together, crossing them through multiple dimensions of our lives, and “vibrating” the heck out of them, we can collectively share happiness and good faith as a society through better relationships, systems, and mutual understandings. Seems chaotic, yes, but in chaos there is a natural simplicity. Said the great thinker and founder of analytical psychology, Carl Jung: “In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.”

Thanks to for use of the image.