A musician, a good friend of mine, has honed his listening ability to incredible levels. He can tune and attenuate the various audible frequencies of a snare drum so that it can be heard in the mix appropriately without increasing the volume. I admire that level of listening and attention. Musicians like him have a natural talent with years of practice, repetition, and attention.
Making space for sound by dedicating yourself to an inanimate object that asks nothing of you in return is a beautiful type of craft. Especially when I find myself looking at it from an outsider’s perspective. My songs are mixed with brute force: If I want to make something easier to hear I just make it louder. I have a long way to go with my acts of listening. But at least now I am aware.
Quaker worship is quiet. They sit in silence, waiting to be moved to speak. Many times an entire service goes by without a single word being spoken. They prioritize our innate ability to be receptive and to wait, not simply that we are to believe in any particular doctrine. In other words, they’re forgoing traditional rituals so that they don’t simply go through the motions.
There’s an old Taoist story about a butcher who never had to sharpen his knife because he simply felt his way into the cuts and the spaces in between the joints. His blade stayed razor sharp that way. “Perception and understanding have come to a stop and spirit moves where it wants,” Cook Ding says.