I promise not every one of these articles is going to be a lame pun about the legends of a mythological bird! We have to start somewhere, though, and I need to establish a precedence for calling the blog Millennial Phoenix. One thing that many people do not know about the legendary Phoenix, unless a Harry Potter fan, is that phoenix tears can heal any wound, no matter how fatal. In the movie Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry is gouged by the fang of a deadly basilisk, and it seems that our unlikely hero will perish in the depths of a abandoned bathroom. Miraculously, Fawkes (Dumbledore’s phoenix), sheds his tears on Harry’s arm, the wound heals instantly, and our hero lives to ruin another school year for the other students of Hogwarts.
This makes for a nice story full of mythical and wondrous magic that can get Harry Potter out of any unlikely situation, but in the real world, no such magic exists (unless you count the power of love, which I don’t, but J.K. Rowling most certainly does). If we are to be the Millennial Phoenix, then we each must master the power of healing. In this country, many old wounds of a dark past remain open and the freshly inflicted wounds take ages to close, if ever.
Put away the Nicholas Sparks and the box of tissues, because, despite the aforementioned example, we will not be collecting buckets of tears to heal the country; that would be counter-productive and all that salt is no good for the skin. So, how do we heal the wounds that were created hundreds of years ago, while simultaneously healing the current wounds created by clashing viewpoints? The answer is simple — listen.
Story time! One day, I was having a particularly emotional time dealing with some mental lacerations from my own past, that never seemed to heal correctly. I was, to put it lightly, down in dumps and needed someone to listen to my petty problems, but not wanting to call upon someone in fears of wasting their time. I had a good friend notice that I was not my usual, chipper self and asked “What’s wrong? You can just let it out man, I’m a real good listener.” Noticing that the expression on his face was sincere, and knowing that the heart behind the offer was pure (well, good-intentioned. I have seen him do some less-than-noble things, so “pure-hearted” is a little extreme), I seized the opportunity and let my worries flow from mouth, lighter than liquid, but denser than air, I began to fill the room with the transgressions of my past. The flow of my words was shortly-after disrupted by the intrusive advice of my “good listener”. Before I could even finish outlining the depths of the problem, my friend decided that it was his turn to give me unwanted advice about unfamiliar topics. The words that lingered the air guided back to my throat, locked behind a door of apprehension, and weighing down the heart already heavy of burden. It became apparent to me that he sought the satisfaction of “helping a friend” rather than the opportunity of helping a friend. They sound generally the same, but they are vastly different.
Now, you may be wondering what my unsuccessful self-pity-party story might have to do with you, or the future success of our country. In all honesty, not much, but I wanted to provide a concrete example of what it looks like to “listen” compared to what it means to listen. In the example, my friend sought the good feeling achieved when you listen to a friend, but did not want to actually lend a listening ear, which would require him to not talk for a whole 5 minutes — too much to ask apparently.
It is crucial to successful listening to understand what kind of listener you are. I think we all know what it is like to converse with someone that is truly and honestly listening to every word that comes out of your mouth. They hang on each word as it spills out and reserve all comments until the appropriate time. Unfortunately, these people are far and few between. Most people are either concurrently planning their response while you are speaking, or are thinking about something entirely different, altogether — it always shows in their eyes.
Personally, I am one of the best and worst listeners, depending on the day. I understand having a million thoughts sporadically bouncing through your head, making it difficult to just isolate a singular thought, let alone another person’s concerns on top of that. I understand wanting to voice my opinion before listening to the entire argument that is provided. There are some things that deserve our full attention, however, and we need to have the ability to give our full attention and comprehension to those ideas.
In our country, we are severely divided on every crucial issue and there are some extreme misunderstandings about the opinions of the “opposition”. To those people that are closest to me, I am constantly preaching the diversification of your news media. Many people want to listen to the journalists, magazines, news papers, or news sites that agree with the opinions that they already hold, but will never venture to the other side and try to understand the motivation of those that think differently. The generations that have built the foundation for our future have left us split down the middle and the only way to break the barriers that divide us, is to open your mind. It is unwise to be a passive listener and only hear the things that you want to hear or have a rebuttal against.
Empathy is the key to comprehensive listening. It is easy to hear the words or ideas that are presented, but it takes analytical thinking and full understanding of the topic at hand to truly relate to the views of an opposing side. The current state of the news media has established a contorted platform that does not leave room for discussion or new opinions. Depending on the viewed source, there is one correct and one incorrect answer to every problem. This simply is not true. There are hundreds of views and opinions that could be offered for every situation presented to the government, but the news media has limited us to two — Republican v. Democrat.
If we are really listening to each other, we would understand this facade of the news media. A majority of the political discussions that I have with my peers are recited and recycled ideas that have been presented in the media in one form or another. To listen means to hear these news reports, understand the motivation, know the bias, and analyze the information that is brought forth. When someone discussed how certain legislation or reforms have affected their life, listen and comprehend the situation that they are in, and how difficult it must be to have your life affected by things that you have little, or no, control over.
Each human being has a lens or filters that they see the world through. The only way to listen to each other, is to have the ability to remove your lens, or replace it with another’s, and see what the world looks like from a different perspective. Of course, you might never be able to fully understand the factors that have a brought a person to their current mind-set, but you can evaluate the emotions that affect this mindset. It is hard to listen if the only concern on your mind is voicing your opinion. Chances are you will get that chance, so shut your mouth when someone else is speaking. If your neighbor sheds tears, listen to what those tears are saying; only then we can they heal the scars that created them.
PS. There will always be people in the world that will use these emotional attachments to advance their own agenda. This is why listening is even more essential. Cutting through the bull shit is key to understanding the functions of the government. Feel the emotions of your neighbor, and empathized with those feelings, but do not be naive and allow them to take advantage of your heavy heart.