Monday, June 10, 2013

The Deaf Cannot Hear

            I wrote this more than a year ago after my first ‘cardiac event’. I don’t know why I didn’t post it then. I’m sure there was a good reason which I don’t remember. Anyway, something recently reminded me of this, so here it is.
             Some of you know I was recently in the hospital because of a minor heart attack, or ‘cardiac event’. I’ve looked at that experience to see what, if anything, there might be to take away from it.
            The first thing that comes to mind is this: the deaf cannot hear and the blind cannot see.
            Okay, two things here: one, this is not a new revelation. Two, if it seems so obvious that the deaf cannot hear and the blind cannot see that it isn’t worth mentioning, well, you may be right. And you may be wrong.
            This first struck me when the cardiologist came to see me. There was some question as to whether or not I had actually had a heart attack. It was quickly evident to me that he wasn’t conversing with me. He was talking at me, telling me that they thought I’d had a heart attack and that a heart catheterization would reveal the truth. He wasn’t hearing what I was saying when I asked if he was proposing that I put myself in a possibly life threatening position just to verify someone’s opinion. To him I was the ignorant and contrary commoner whose ignorance simply needed to be trampled. To me he was a pompous, know-it-all ass. Looking back, I think it’s likely that neither of us heard the other.
            There were other times during my stay when other doctors and nurses didn’t hear what I was asking or saying. To be fair, I’ll admit that there must have been times when I didn’t hear what they were saying to me, either.
            As I lay waiting (and waiting and waiting and waiting) to go for the catheterization, I was able to calm my mind and get into that semi-dream state where your body and mind are relaxed as if asleep but your mind is active. This thing of hearing but not hearing played across the stage of my mind, and it occurred to me how terribly lonely and frustrating must have been the lives of the prophets who were compelled by the divine to address a people who could neither see what the prophets were showing them nor hear what they were telling them. Yes, the people saw something, heard something, but they neither saw what they should have seen nor heard what they should have heard. In some cases, they heard the opposite of what was being said, which led them to persecute the prophet.
            I want to think that some of this deafness is accidental or that it is somehow beyond our control, but I don’t really believe that to be the case. We willfully refuse to see that which comes into conflict with one or more of the layers of our preconceptions. We refuse to hear that which picks at the threads of the tapestry we have woven for ourselves and which we call ‘the truth’.
            Obviously this subject begs a number of questions which, perhaps, you’ll ponder. For my part, I don’t have the energy to address them and, frankly, I’m a little overwhelmed by the mystery of seeing but not seeing and hearing but not hearing. We always assume that we hear and understand what’s being said to us, but honesty demands that we acknowledge that there must be times when we don’t hear or see and when we don’t understand. And here’s the kicker: we are so skillful at self-deception, so dedicated to guarding the layers of our preconceptions that we may not know when it’s happening. Personally, I find that unsettling.

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