243: “Listen Harder” (Samuel Beckett)

                “At last I began to think, that is to say to listen harder.” -Samuel Beckett

                Today I feel like I don’t have that much to say. The rain is falling. Cars go past outside. I wonder if I can hear that there are less of them. Hear people staying in, staying home.
                Listen harder.
                Years and years ago, in a rough semester of college, I decided what I needed to do was make my voice heard: speak up, and join the conversation. “The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse,” says Whitman. Then again, there’s Milton: “They also serve who only stand and wait.”
                Listen harder.
                It was an excited, hopeful, silly thing, my decision in college: or at least, it was only a piece of an idea. Lately, in learning to dance, I’ve found myself enjoying following more than leading. Whichever role I take up, I used to think the challenge was knowing what to do. Now it seems more about hearing what there is. When I watch people who really dance, there’s something—call it the music, call it the beat, call it the world—moving through them. Of course, when I ask them how they do what they do, that’s exactly what they’ve been telling me: “I feel it.” The “it” isn’t something they’re saying. It’s something they’re hearing.
                I like hearing. I like speaking. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having an idea, but perhaps Beckett means that there is something shallow about the idea until you’re listening to more than just it. “At last I began to think, that is to say, to listen harder.” If speaking is a sketch then maybe listening is the page. If doing is a kind of dancing then maybe listening is the music.
                Just now, I don’t feel like I have very much to say. I think that’s okay. I’m telling myself,

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