Monday, March 02, 2009

To listen or not to be, this is my question

How are you? How are you? And, less often, How are you? The question offends me when it is asked too lightly, like when I take a deep breath to respond with my life story, only to notice that the inquisitor has already disappeared around the corner. The question annoys me if asked too seriously, like if I respond with a very thoughtful "pretty good," and the response is Are you sure?

Even if all goes well, if they say How are you, and I have time to respond and they accept what I say, the question perplexes me. The question perplexes me most when I ask it to myself, as I do whenever the inquisitor seems to want a genuine reply. How am I? How do I feel? What is there to feel? What should I choose to feel? Not that I have any choice about what feeling feels like, but there is some choice in what part of neuro-space to zoom in on.

If I focus on the fig newton in my hand I'll say I'm doing great, 'cause I love fig newtons and here I'm eating a fig newton. Or I can look back over the past week and try to remember exactly how much fun versus stress I've been having lately. Or I may contemplate my life as a hole and say This really sucks and I'm actually going to die. The methodical assignment of emotions to context is a truly dismal science. Or a highly energizing and interesting science. How does it feel?

How are you? seems to request an up-or-down assessment of the quality of my existence, preferably substantiated with reasons such as events or circumstances. Is there necessarily any meaningful or useful relationship between the things that happened to me today and how I am right NOW? On some level I suppose the answer is yes, but I can still be alert and "feel" without consciously analyzing any particular aspect of my situation. This low-context feel (not to be confused with sleep) is very difficult to label with any kind of modifiers.

I am that I am how I am when I'm listening. Listening to what? Sensing. Sensing what? What does it feel like to listen and watch for nothing in particular? Is there anything left after everything in particular is irrelevant? Try it.

How are you? Are you listening?

3 Comments:

Anonymous happypappy said...

I thought economics is a "truly dismal science."

As your Uncle Jim would say when we stood together in the woods, watching and listening, hunting deer: "A deer could walk through that brush down there [not far] and we'd never even know."

4:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so are you suggesting that listening is sometimes worthless because despite all that effort you might still miss that sound of the deer, or whatever deeper thing that a deer might connote?

8:10 AM  
Anonymous dr perfection said...

stop gazing at your navel.

how are you is just how are you. it is superficial and should be answered superficially. Fine, how are you is how you respond.

4:05 AM  

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