PART I in a series: The Art of Listening
I started listening to Jackson Browne somewhere right in the knee of the curve as they say. He had some killer albums from 1972 (“Saturate Before Using”) through 1977 (“Running on Empty”) that caught me at just the right time in life to listen to a poetic troubadour with many of the same killer musicians backing him as other favorite singer-songwriters of mine at the time like JT, Warren Zevon, Karla Bonoff, Arlo Guthrie, Willis Alan Ramsey,….
So Jackson Browne often rode on my turntable all night (with automatic replay! what a feature!!) for quite a few teenage years including the first years I started performing acoustic in front of audiences which were mostly college crowds but also dinner crowds.
I was talking to someone today about technology and realized as I was saying it that none of us know what we know without having listened to others pretty carefully at whatever times of our lives we were learning. That is, you can’t learn everything you know without listening. But at certain points, some of us or maybe most of us no longer feel like we have to listen to what others are saying very much if ever. It is a point of defiance that says, to quote another famous troubadour “All right, I’ve had enough, what else can you show me?”. I take that rhetorical question as one of irony and defiance where the answer is (obviously) “nothing”.
So if we have nothing left to learn, we have nothing left to listen to.
I hope I don’t get to that point.
To me the point is that I will have to remind myself more and more of this risk of turning off my inner-listener as more and more years go by. I hope that I can just recall spinning things like “For Everyman” and “Late for the Sky” and “The Pretender” on my dusty turntable between maybe the hours of midnight and 5am and just letting it play over and over while I was sleeping but still listening and carrying it around with me the whole next day in whatever background landscape it wanted to become and change as I changed with the weather and the world around me but always finding a place in my ear to tell me something I needed to learn.
“Doctor eyes have seen the years
And the slow parade of fears without crying
You must help me understand
I have done all that I could
To see the evil and the good without hiding
You must help me if you can”
– JB “Doctor My Eyes”
[photo of my flatbed truck stage, naung mai thai kitchen, hilo, courtesy of rebecca lucy marie]