LAST SUNDAY NIGHT, upon receiving his Grammy award, Kendrick Lamar, in his acceptance speech said, “Most importantly it showed me a true definition of what being an artist was; you know. From the jump I thought it was about the accolades and cars and clothes, but it is really about expressing yourself and putting that paint on the canvas for the world to evolve, for the next listener, the next generation after that. You know what I’m saying?”
There is so much in those few sentences and between the lines (if could be so bold, Kendrick). There is self-awareness, emotional intelligence even, and humility. There is the recognition of the power of art and the creative process. But to my ears, the most wonderful part is his affirmation of the beauty of the generative process.
That last sentence, when he says, “You know what I’m saying?”— that may be a rhetorical question, but it truly caused me to stop; to think, really think about what he is saying, to rewind and listen again.
Language, through turns of phrase, has its way of calling for full attention and certain communitcation doesn’t it?
- A father might say, “Do you understand me?”
- A mother might say, “Are you listening to me?”
- A teacher might say, “Are you paying attention?”
- The preacher might say, “Can I get an Amen?!”
- Pops might say, “If you’ll listen to me you can have an ice cream sandwich and then stay up until the wee hours watching Peppa Pig!”
- The Grand-Girls, say, “Hey Pops. Hey, Hey, Pops Pops Pops!”
- Malachi just looks at me with his glorius, slobbery smile and bright blue inquisitive eyes.
An actor playing an Italian mob boss might say, “Capisce?”
[Capisce, 1940s Italian slang (pronounced as cah-peesh) derived from the Italian word capire "to understand" and from Latin capere "to grasp or to seize". It is now used in american slang to say "got it" or "understand.”]
Throughout the red words of the Bible (you know, the words that Jesus spoke) there is a phrase that is, to my ears, Jesus’ way of saying, “You know what I’m saying?”
Jesus would tell a story, a parable, and then he would say, “He who has ears, let him hear.”
My dear friend and mentor, Doug Manning, is in my opinion sort of a listening savant. A few days ago I asked him, “What does it mean to really listen?” While that last word was still on my lips he said, “To understand.” He went on to explain “understanding” with beautiful, colorful illustrations. I am hoping to have him write a few words about it all so that I can post them here at About Pops. For now, check out his blog called THE HAPPY HERETIC.
Does it seem like we listen less these days? Maybe there are too many distractions, too much noise. Plus, listening to more fully understand seems so hard. It takes a selflessness that is rare in our culture of arrogance and narcissism. And yet, we need listeners more than ever. For example:
From Huffington Post: Twenty years ago, Larissa Boyce confessed to a gymnastics coach at Michigan State University that the school’s lauded sports medicine doctor, Larry Nassar, had touched her inappropriately. She was 16 at the time.
Boyce was seeing Nassar for lower back pain. But during many of her appointments, he inserted his fingers into her vagina, she says. She was only a teen, but her gut told her the treatment didn’t make sense. So she told Kathie Klages, one of her instructors, about what was happening.
But Klages downplayed her concerns, Boyce said in a recent phone interview with The Huffington Post. She told Boyce she must have misunderstood the procedure. Boyce, paralyzed with shame, concluded it must all be in her head.
For two decades, that’s what she continued to believe. Then, in September 2016, news broke that two former gymnasts, including an Olympic medalist, were saying they’d been sexually abused by Nassar.
In the months since, more than 100 women have come forward with horrifying allegations of being molested by Nassar under the guise of medical treatment. The abuse is alleged to have occurred over the course of two decades, with some of the earliest reports dated in 1997, and the most recent in 2016.
Finally, someone listened. Twenty years and 100 some young girls later—someone listened; to understand.
Remember what Dr. Frasier Crane would say when he took calls on his radio show? “I’m listening.” Healing words right? If we really mean it.
I’m going to do better, starting here: I promise that if we are talking with each other, I won’t check my iPhone, my iPad, or my Apple Watch. One caveat, if while we are visiting my watch makes a sound and I stand up and move around, don’t take that as a lack of listening and engagement on my part. My watch tells me every so often to get up and move. I don’t know how to turn off those alerts and I don’t have the moral courage to ignore the admonition. Other than that, I will try to be all ears, because I want to understand and be understood.
You know what I’m saying?