I never really gave my ears much thought until I met someone who hated theirs. Isn’t that usually how it works? Can you really hate or even be disappointed in a body part if you have nothing to compare it to? Comparison and competition, that’s where all the struggle lies – wanting things to be different than they are. Ah, the human condition.
My ears are smallish, flat against my head and hear well. I don’t see much need to elaborate. Although I do have this small section on the upper outside edge of my right ear that somehow grew shut when I was very young. You would never know it even to look at it, but q-tips find the darndest things. Despite that one anomaly they still hear just fine, although they haven’t always listened.
It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I really learned to listen. Up to then I had always been so busy sharing my awesomeness with others, telling hoards of people who could not care less how I mastered some task or grew up in a great city or learned to fly. They were busy awaiting their turn to share their own embellished adventures. I would weave tremendous yarns masking my desire to be seen and adored with witty anecdotes and the appearance of self-deprecating humor to show how humble yet magnificent I was.
Then I was taught to listen, it was an accident. I’m sure this lesson had presented itself before but I was unprepared to see it for what it was. I was taking a series of classes on nutrition that were actually leading to a certification as a coach. And coaches have to listen.
And so I did. And it changed everything. Once I shut my mouth and quieted the thoughts that wanted to leap out of it, I heard so much.
So often we listen with the intent of responding, crafting our retort as the other person bares their soul. We’re not listening, we’re thinking. Selfishly. About how we can trump what they’re saying, solve their problem or redirect attention back to ourselves.
Maybe all they need is to be heard. Mostly that is all anyone wants. Waiting until someone was done talking, instead of interjecting my clever solution, allowed me to pause a full minute after they were done to actually consider if they needed me to say anything or if they had just worked out whatever it was. It was a game-changer for how I was in the world.
I find this to be so true of men and women. We are different, it has to be said. In general women want to talk through whatever is going on in their lives, not for it to be solved but to air it out, put it up on the line to flap in the breeze, let some of it blow away and whatever’s left deal with it. Men think we want them to fix it, whatever it is. We really just want them to agree or sympathize with us. We want to feel understood. I’m not sure how this works in same-sex relationships, I’d be interested to know.
The ear itself is like a fingerprint. No two are alike. Immigration photos in the U.S. used to be taken in profile and full face so that identification can be made by the ear if necessary. Today ears must show in passport photos or risk rejection.
Ears are used as identification in many cultures, although in a more aesthetic sense. How they are pierced or tattooed or painted or left completely unscathed help determine tribal membership. This is true in places like Africa and the Amazon of course, but also here in the U.S. If your ears are gauged and you see another person with gauged ears, there is a common interest and recognition. You get each other.
Ears are a little like knees; on their own they’re not so pretty, but as one of the sum of your parts they are appreciated and useful. Love your unique ears. Pierced, tattooed, big, small, long, wide, flat, extended. They are an organ that has a very special talent and rare ability to make others feel understood.
“How is it possible that a being with such sensitive jewels as the eyes, such enchanted musical instruments as the ears, and such fabulous arabesque of nerves as the brain can experience itself anything less than a god.” – Alan Watts