Missing the ground

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy states there is a knack to flying: that of throwing yourself to the ground and missing. It states that:

One problem is that you have to miss the ground accidentally. It’s no good deliberately intending to miss the ground because you won’t. You have to have your attention suddenly distracted by something else then you’re halfway there, so that you are no longer thinking about falling, or about the ground, or about how much it’s going to hurt if you fail to miss it.

I feel this way about listening. Sometimes, if I am keenly interested in something I listen keenly. I focus all of my energies in carefully processing the words that are spoken, and the intent behind them. Then I get distracted. I think about something related to the thing that was spoken, and then something related to that. In no time at all I so far removed from the thing that was originally being said that not even Kevin Bacon could help me find my way back. This might not be a bad thing.

Of course it also could be a bad thing. It might mean that I am shallow, or rude or that I have a poor attention span (or all of the above). However, it could be that instead of providing dedicated moments of contemplative silence we do the opposite. We talk, but make allowances for people to drift off into their own reveries. Personally, I rather like that option. It may not feel good as a teacher to think that your students are elsewhere but it might be the best way for students to take the germ of an idea, sift and sort it, and then take it somewhere new.

I’m certainly not arguing that listening it bad, or that teaching should be talking. However, I wonder if we might inspire more and better thoughts by letting the words roll.

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