Vlorbik's Diner

son of owen's cooking show

de profundis

Posted by vlorbik on June 24, 2012

everybody wants to talk; nobody wants to listen

there are exceptions of course…
but then, there are even exceptions
to “everybody wants to live; nobody
wants to die”. let’s call ’em
statistical outliers.

certainly (almost) nobody
wants to be “talked *at*”.
popular usage opposes this to being
“talked *to*”… but popular usage
is a ass: it would be much clearer
to compare “talking *at*” to “talking *with*”.

the point is: it’s no fun listening to
people who won’t listen to you.

in the beginning

a sound only a mother could love:
babies crying. and *why* do they love it?
well, by golly, that poor suffering *baby*
is going to be talked to (or “at”)
*by* that mother (and those in her
immediate social circle)…
and made to listen…
for hundreds and hundreds of hours.

*without* such interactions…
i scream and wave my limbs around while
you soothingly yammer away at me
in terms i clearly *don’t understand*…
*no human being* will acquire the gift
of language. mothers are great.
necessary even. but they’ve got
their reasons.

again, it doesn’t have to be literally
a “mother” that does does the penitential
listening (and the ego-boosting speaking);
but, again, that’s the usual model.

[i’ll probably soon quit apologizing
for my tendency to sweeping generalizations.
i’ll *almost certainly* quit apologizing
for feeling that it’s necessary to
explain things at length when it appears
obvious to me that any but the most
unsympathetic readers will take the point
*without* digressions like this. blag.
unsympathetic readers, begone!]

so there we are in childhood.
learning so much, so fast, that science
can’t explain it.

certainly, at first, most of this learning
is “nonverbal” (which is, of course, *not*
the same as to say “unrelated to talking-
-and-listening”… oops there i go again).
sitting upright and toilet stuff and
moving around on one’s own two feet
and whatnot. for most of this stuff,
the parents (caretakers; what have you)
are nevertheless typically communicating
a great deal by *tones of voice*
(for example)…

also this. with any luck, one soon becomes
aware of one’s own peer group: other kids
of about one’s own age.

well, dammit, if the who-talks-who-listens
model (“dominance” and “submission”, i suppose
if you insist) doesn’t jump out at you
right about now, you’ve missed the point
(or had your childhood on mars): bigger kids
are awesome. literally. deserving of
fear *and* admiration… and *obviously*
worth listening to very attentively.

but then what? some i-wanna-talk-
-so-you-better-listen “bully” overwhelms us
and, what else, we go “crying to mommy”
who’ll, what else, *listen*. again and again.

but only up to a point, of course: our task
is to fine-tune our sense of “who we are”
in the social scheme-of-things. on the
model here at hand, this amounts to
something like “how much listening
must i do to be *listened to*?”.

mostly our “teachers” don’t teach;
they merely lecture. still, like
john said about elvis: “*that*
looks like a good job.”.


everybody wants to publish;
nobody wants to read.

great poets die in steaming pots of shit.
(to be continued.)

3 Responses to “de profundis”

  1. vlorbik said


    “listening the most precious thing” (by me; 5/09).

  2. I like, very much … good reading ~ like listening, for the pauses and silences too ~ isn’t it? I remembered the 2009 post too when I saw it.

    I’m worn out following and trying to sort our UVa mess enough to write about (not that adjuncts by and large care but the corporate ax hews resisters and dissenters high and low). So I’ll try to explain why it matters (maybe more than playing footsie with higher ed unions for crumbs).

    So I’ve been reading (listening), making 1-2 comments, some sharing, but now, between listening (reading) and speaking (writing), I need to mull. Read something else. Unrelated. Look at pictures and listen to music.

    Today I keep thinking about Cavafy’s Waiting for the Barbarians, other days it’s Ithaca or the city, today ~ barbarians

    you don’t really mean it about apologizing, do you? I hope not.

  3. vlorbik said

    wow, thanks, VV. your work… or maybe it’s your lifestyle…
    is a continuing inspiration to me (of course i refer mainly
    to your “online” presence & participation)… but poetry
    (or “art” generally) is, what? glaze on the cake…

    resistance is futile? sorry… yeah, duh.
    almost everybody dies in every scenario.
    something resembling “the humanities”?
    or, forsooth “humanity” its-own-self?

    not up to you or me.

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