There are few habits we need to practice more than the habit of listening, and yet there are few things more neglected in these days. We work with feverish energy from morn till eve, we play with still more agonized intensity year in, year out, we study till the overlade brain utterly collapses, and many of those who should be amid the best thinkers of the day become cumberers of the earth, only useful to call forth the pity of their fellow man, and the best path to all progress, the greatest source of enlightenment, has become closed, unused, forgotten. Listening is a lost art. What poet now goes forth to the woods and fields for inspiration? Men write in song what they learn in other people's drawing-rooms nowadays. Except to a few keen ears which have caught some of the music of the Spheres, the great lessons taught by our mother Nature go on from dawn till dark and dark till dawn again unheeded, unlearned, unmissed. And so it is in all circles; men teach what they have never learned save from other teachers; they speak long and loudly of what some have learned from some others, who in their turn have learned from the few of long ago who listened indeed. Echoes are beautiful but echoes of echoes of echoes must be faint and can never stir the pulse or fire the brain as the clear full song, newly caught from nature, can.
For inspiration, for strength, for comfort, we go to other men's books, culled from still others' ideas. We talk of looking through nature up to nature's God, but we rush in troops where other troops await us, and to the strains of a band, hired for the season, we talk of the surface of things to a hundred or so when they are not too busy chattering themselves to even seem to hear. When we meet with some star in the world's firmament do we ever let it shine on our darkness? When there is so much to learn and so little time to learn it in, do we not chatter that the great ones might think we, too, know, instead of gathering all the lore we can when we can? And those, whom we proudly think to be beneath us, have they no lesson they could teach if we would listen? Nearly everyone knows or has experienced something unknown to others; if we talked less and listened more that fact, or experience, or idea, might be for our use, and what a store we should have in the year's end!
There must be listeners or there would not be so much music nowadays, someone will say; yes, but in what spirit do we listen? Is it not to find fault rather than to enjoy? Do we humbly listen that we might learn, might grow? If we hear no teaching we rashly suppose that there is none there for us or any one, when perhaps a little closer silence, a humbler attitude of mind, would have revealed vistas of thought and great stores of strength for us.