Reading, Listening

This is from

Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity:

Trigonometry for Pastoral Work by

Eugene H. Peterson

(Note – Theologically, I’m not in the same family as Mr. Peterson. He is, however, an extremely creative writer. And here – while the length of the sentence defies class-room composition standards – he makes a vital point for husbands … and preachers.)

Many people much prefer reading over listening. It is less demanding emotionally and can be arranged to suit personal convenience.

The stereotype is the husband buried in the morning newspaper at breakfast, preferring to read a news agency report of the latest scandal in a European government, the scores of yesterday’s athletic contests, and the opinions of a couple of columnists whom he will never meet rather than listen to the voice of the person who has just shared his bed, poured his coffee, and fried his eggs, even though listening to that live voice promises love and hope, emotional depth and intellectual exploration far in excess of what he can gather informationally from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Christian Science Monitor put together. In the voice of this living person he has access to a colorful history, an incredibly complex emotional system, and never-before-heard combinations of words that can surprise, startle, move, gladden, or anger him – any of which would seem to be more attractive to an alive human being than getting some information, none or little of which will make any impact on the living of that day. Reading does not, as such, increase our capacity to listen. In some cases it interferes with it.

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