“What’s one thing you’re proud of?” Today, yesterday or many years ago. What’s fascinating about this questions for me is how my ego reacts to it and with not much humbleness.
My ego wants to choose what I’m most proud of with the added constraint that it be one of the most flashy, successful moment, especially through the lens of how the outside world perceives me. Well so be it. Here’s a moment for which I am very proud. I performed at the national theater in Costa Rica with my husband in 2007 and we also performed and presented the opening keynote address of the Alliance for a New Humanity’s “Symphony of Transformation” Human Forum six months later. These performances were great accomplishments, and, it took a lot of work and preparation – years of practice in fact – leading up to those accomplishments.
People came up to me after those performances and shared how they were touched and moved by the music, and by the performance. They were grateful for having heard us, for our musical talent and our creative expression. I modestly replied with an honored thank you for your comment and for having ears to hear. It seems like a humble enough reply as I was truly grateful to have the opportunity to share my musical expression with others. But let’s double check the end of that statement – thank you for having ears to hear – as I realize now that it could have a shadow side. What does it mean really, ‘having ears to hear’? Does this mean that some people, but not other people have ears to hear? Does that mean that these ‘others’ are not paying attention? Even if that were true, why does this implied ‘other’ matter? And most importantly, is this statement helpful to the person with whom I’m speaking?
In short, what do I really mean when I say ‘thank you for having ears to hear’? Well, what I think I mean is ‘thank you for hearing into the soul of who I am, and also I’d like to give you a compliment as I think you’re a great person too.’ I also feel grateful to be speaking with this person and getting an opportunity to know them.
Also, it is clear to me that this exchange wouldn’t have happened if the audience member and now my friend, hadn’t been in the audience listening to the music. I’m thinking it would be apropos to mention some fascinating thoughts by pianist Glenn Gould about audiences and performances. But instead of digging up a quote from “The Glenn Gould Reader” sitting in the headboard bookshelf in my bedroom, let me give another philosophical statement directly to this point.
“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
When you perform live with an audience of people you don’t know, it is performing into an unknown. There is a palpable dynamic to this unknown which is very powerful and for which an entire book could and likely has already been written. Something extraordinary is exchanged between performer and audience when the conditions are right. And maybe that’s an undercurrent to my statement – that it’s gratifying to experience a resonant exchange of listener and the one being heard.
I think in the end, if I am sincere and humble in saying, ‘thank you for having ears to hear’ there is no shadow, only an authentic exchange of respect of each person’s humanity and sensitivities to the creative process.
And now, dear reader, I thank you for having “ears to hear” by reading this personal musing that has unfolded as a result of reflecting on a moment in my life for which I am proud. I invite you to take a moment to think about a moment in your own life for which you are most proud.