For the past two years, a pair of king parrots has turned up at my house for a few days in September. They’ve woken me early to demand that I feed them. Somehow they know I’m a soft touch for birds with festive plumage because I have a policy about NOT feeding birds. This pair insist upon it by peeping loudly (click this link and scroll down until you get to the audio field on the right to hear just how insistent they are) until I respond. Then they grace me with their sunflower seed eating presence until they are sated.
It’s not king parrot season now where I live but the audacity of their plumage evokes wrapping paper and bon bons. They also remind me of the way we seem to have to listen to something new at Christmas, or at least I do, and figure out how to respond peacefully.
I trust you find ways to embody a little of that peace we all long for by listening to your friends and your loved ones, especially to those who rile you most effectively. I also hope that the people who get riled by you most effectively will listen to you, at least for a few nano-seconds before they get distracted by the pudding.
If you need a reminder of why we rile each other so well, poet Wendell Berry has some great advice here and what he describes is a good antidote for when we get a bit antsy.
I have a sense—and I’m sure it’s not just my personal prejudice from having written a PhD on the topic—that we need so much more listening in the world now.
Listening to our selves so we can heed our own wisdom and speak from a place that’s real and also open. Listening to our friends so we can grow through their insights. Listening to those we find difficult so we can work out what is needed in our relationship to them.
Someone spoke to me recently about a visit with the cousin who drives him completely nuts, where he let himself shift away from reactivity by noticing how he was feeling (resentful, angry, frustrated) and NOT falling into his usual pattern of dismissiveness and petulance. Things transformed at least for a nano-second or three. That’s love, there in that nano-second. And let’s be realistic and not expect more than the odd nano-second, but they can grow longer, those periods of hard-won love.
The more we can begin to see conflict as the stuff that can promote deeper understanding if we listen into it, the more we can move, at least one tiny incremental step closer, towards love and peace. And that’s challenging, active peace for the 21st century which has nothing namby pamby about it.
I’m wishing myself and others deep listening, received and offered, for this festive season. And a few nano-seconds of that special kind of love that comes when you’ve made a bit of an effort not to get hooked into an old pattern.
And also the odd unexpected visitor, human, avian or otherwise, who brings you joy.
p.s. apologies if you have already read this because you are on my mailchimp mailing list, and an even more listening filled Christmas to you.