Oh, what have you seen …

For all the virtues of indirection and silence, the hub of cooperation is active participation rather than passive presence.*
(Richard Sennett)

I appreciate what Richard Sennett is saying here, but I want to play with his words to suggest there can also be passive participation and active presence.

Passive participation as simply joining in with the decisions and activities of others.

Active presence as bringing the quality of deep listening and noticing that can lead to greater breakthroughs.

Bernadette Jiwa helps us to see capacities that will become increasingly valuable in a distracted and myopic world:

They pay attention to the seemingly mundane or insignificant, and delight in the kind of details other people overlook or ignore. The best storytellers are:

  • great listeners; and
  • first class noticers.**

Jiwa is relating these to storytellers, but we’re all tellers of stories really.

Our families are stories, our workplaces are stories, our nations and human existence are all stories we’re trying to tell better.

Karen Armstrong encourages us to ‘make place for the other,’^ and listening and noticing is the beginning of this openness to others and the world.

We must also make room for ourselves:

When you get to be older, and the concerns of the day have all been attended to, and you turn to the inner life – well, if you don’t know where it is or what it is, you’ll be sorry.^^

Silence, solitude, slowness are the friends of listeners and noticers.

*From Richard Sennett’s Together;
**From Bernadette Jiwa’s What Great Storytellers Know;
^From Karen Armstrong’s Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life;
^^Joseph Campbell, from Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.

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