Burning Ears

As I write I am leaning back on my favourite chair only metres from the beach (bragging photo attached). There is something magnificent about holidays when over a few weeks they foster a willingness to jump back in to the big wide world of emails and deadlines in place of the holiday duties like; the setting up of the umbrella and the emptying of the portaloo (portable toilet). Actually the portaloo job brings out the militant side of me as I regulate everyones desire to go to the loo to a once a day occasion, as I am the idiot who has to creep around at night at the campsite toilets with an unwelcome feeling of shame as I discard the waste.


I previously emptied the caravan loo during the day but the look from the other campers was too discouraging. The men all shared an empathetic nod as I walked past and I could tell the women were making a mental note to not shake my hand or let me help with food preparation. It is camp discrimination at its worse and the women always seem to come off better! FYI – The task it is completely hygienic but an embarrassing blight on the soul of the modern man!

So what does this have to do with a listening ear? Nothing, just venting….

The thing about holidays is the caravan forces the family to be in close proximity of each other. A board game quickly turns into a family affair and flatulence cannot be hidden! After a few weeks of camping I always feel closer to my kids and wife from being immersed more in the daily routine. At first I find it confronting and then after a while I wake up in anticipation of who is going to say the first delightful thing for the day – I love that!

We went home recently from our holiday just for a day because the weather turned a little nasty. When I was home I ducked into the studio to finish a few edits for our new record. I have my gear on the other side of the wall separating the bathroom. While I was waiting for files to be uploaded my daughter Jaz was having a bath and both Helena & I had got distracted leaving Jaz to play for over 30 mins. I leaned back into my chair and began to over hear Jaz’s game she was playing with water logged dolls and retired Dora the Explorer toys demoted to bathroom hell duties.

The banter was delightful, so much so, I found myself attached to every word she was saying like it was a riveting movie. Her imagination was running wild and much of the characters she was portraying included references to Helena’s and my behavioral conversations we have had with her in the past. It was an incredible unsolicited insight into how Jaz hears our words of affirmation and discipline. I learnt more about my parenting style in that 20 minutes than a prolonged reflection on my family of origin .

The point I am making to myself is obvious….you simply can’t engage with another human being at warp speed. When anyone reflects on their life close to death, the repetitious chorus of wishing for more time spent with loved ones should recalibrate our compass, but the strive for nebulous significance or productivity robs us of the fulfillment waiting to be exercised through our relationships.

Whenever I walk through the zoo with my girls I can tell there is an expectation that the animals will perform like they do on TV. Most of the time the lions and tigers are lying listless soaking up the sun and it is as entertaining as watching nostril hairs grow. All my girls want to do is go on to the next animal enclosure that captures their attention dismissing the leader of the animal kingdom in preference of the jesters of the animal kingdom such as the talking parrots – depressing!

Everyone these days is tuned into instant. Delayed gratification is tragically earmarked for the technology impaired by necessity and instant gratification is reserved for the savvy as though it is a reflection of success. The truth is Jaz’s play time, which I unintentionally eaves dropped on, required me to sit in silence and wait. She doesn’t have a play button or pause to begin or stop interesting conversations (although that could come in handy). I wouldn’t trade that 20 minutes for all the money in my street (unless it amounted to…say…$200,000 – my pensive idealism can be bought!)

We are meant to ‘waste time’ and listen to each other. My other daughter Sunshine who has special needs demands that I sit and wait. While I wait, I get to admire her high cheek bones and blond hair. I get to hear how she breathes and notice the pulse of her short bursts of activity. I get to look deep into her eyes knowing if I look long enough we will both break out in mutual smiles like we shared an ‘’in joke’ reserved for only her and I. None of that would have happened if I wasn’t forced to stop and listen.

I am about to re-enter work from holidays and from my emails stacked up I know the demands will be great – even greater with the over arching purpose of fighting poverty which can blur the lines of self preservation. I hope the reward I have received from waiting and listening to my family this holiday will remain implanted in my brain like a muscle memory so I defer to that first rather than listen to the intoxicating allure of success or self promotion that will suck more of my attention like an insidious temptation.

Amongst the gravity of pain and struggle are priceless moments everyday that I miss, they are there for me to either take or leave, it is my choice. These moments are offered with a purpose – not to eliminate pain but to balance it. Without those priceless moments gravity gets heavier and the weight of a broken world gets harder to reconcile – balance gets lost. Often I am drawn into the vacuum of achievement believing it will fill a void or distract me from the pain of life. The irony is the more I resist the self importance of being busy and simply listen and wait, the more the pain and disappointment subsides in my soul. The precious moments I am rewarded with by ‘wasting time’ tips the scales back from a heavy soul to a light soul, it gives me fuel to keep walking the journey.

I encourage you to waste some time today!


2 thoughts on “Burning Ears

  1. Another goodun Jay
    I really like the way you think & process what's around you. Your article takes me back to talkative children in car trips (yes in the Kombi!) where the desire to tune out & listen to the radio was challenged by children who wanted to talk. I have never forgotten the tumblers in my brain clicking over saying “you need to listen to this; turn off the radio & listen”
    I also remember Peter McHugh saying that he encouraged his staff to waste time looking out the window, a slight variation on your theme.
    And I also remember challenging groups who came to us on retreat to embrace an hour of directed silence. 1 hour proved to be too much of a challenge to most; the ones who got it though usually had some profound insights
    Or as my colleague used to say; “God gave us two ears & one mouth which probably means that we should do twice as much listening as we do talking.
    Fo me personally, I have always found great solace in just sitting & listening; there was a saying that I still subscribe to & it went “true friendship comes when the silence between two people is comfortable”
    So there you go; a few tangents to your original thought but hey, that's where it took me.
    Mick Mc


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