I’ve had more time to visit my local library lately, which is older and smaller than most. I like to glance through the stacks at some of the older books. That’s how I came across “The Listener,” by Taylor Caldwell. First published in 1960, it seemed to have a certain relevance for today’s need to be constantly connected across email, internet, smart phones, Facebook, and Twitter. From the Foreword:
“[Man’s] real need, his most terrible need, is for someone to listen to him, not as a “patient,” but as a human soul. He needs to tell someone of what he thinks, of the bewilderment he encounters when he tries to discover why he was born, how he must live, and where his destiny lies…
“Our pastors would listen – if we gave them the time to listen to us. But we have burdened them with tasks which should be our own. We have demanded not only that they be our shepherds but that they take our trivialities, our social aspirations, the “fun” of our children, on their weary backs. We have demanded that they be expert businessmen, politicians, accountants, playmates, community directors… We have given them little time for listening, and we do not listen to them, either… We forget that they are men also, frequently very tired, always unappreciated, sometimes disheartened, quite often appalled, worried, anxious, lonely, grieved. They are not supermen, without human agony and human longing… We demand of them what we would not dare to demand of anyone else, even ourselves. We give them no time to listen, when to have someone listen, without hurry, without the click of a clock, is the direst need of our spirits.
“…Let us remember that there is someone who listens. He is available to all of us, all of the time, all of our lives. The Listener.
“We have only to talk to him… He understands our language, our semantics, our terrors, our secrets, our sins, our crimes, our sorrow. He will not turn you away if you are a liar, a thief, a murderer, a hypocrite, a betrayer. He will listen to you. He will not be impatient if you become maudlin, or cry in self-pity, or if you are a coward or a fool.
“Will he speak to you, also? Perhaps. Surely, if you ask him. If you listen, too.”