A Time to Listen

It’s been nearly a month since my last post.  Did you miss me?  I suppose I could say I was side-tracked by the continuing pandemic, the racial and political mayhem encircling us, or the calamitous outbreak of wildfires in our neighborhood here in the Bay Area of Northern California.  But none of that would be true.

In fact, the reason I haven’t posted in so long is because of good old-fashioned writer’s block.  I had been planning to write about neurogenesis and synaptogenesis (the ability of the human brain to grow new communication channels and ways of doing things).  But it just didn’t make it from brain to page.  I was stuck.

And now Ithink I’ve figured out why.  In my last post, “A Modest Proposal,” I had condemned, among other things, baby boomer men’s failure to listen sufficiently, but instead to incessantly “Mansplain.”  We boomer men will opine at the drop of a hat;  even if you no longer want to hear from us.

Since writing those words earlier this month, I have reflected upon my own past behavior.  I spent more than 20 years in the practice of college teaching….opining before captive audiences of hundreds or even thousands of students over the years.  Right up to the end of my teaching career in 2014, I was a practiced opiner.  When younger faculty had moved to genuinely interactive teaching methods, where the teacher teaches less and listens to students more, I was busy lecturing from the front of the room.  Yes, I had added multi-media presentation skills to enliven my lectures with bullet-points, graphs, video and other graphics.  But I was still having them listen to me; I spoke, they listened.

 The other part of my career was spent as a Public Relations practitioner–a company spokesperson.  I opined for others to listen and take notes.  As a spokesperson, you don’t flourish by asking questions of your audience and truly listening.  You spew.  You opine.  At least that’s how I thought it was supposed to go. 

So I have spent the last weeks trying to articulate a post about how our brains can change even at the advanced age of most of us boomers.  New neurons can develop; new synapses can be formed; our thought-processes, values, behaviors and emotions can change.  And, these attributes of the human mind can be changed with intention.  We can make ourselves to be “better” or “worse” on purpose.

But though struggling mightily with what I do think is an important thesis, I just coudn’t get over my writer’s block.  Why would anyone else want to hear me pontificate about something that I’m barely better informed about (if at all) than my reader?  Why?  Because I’m a white male of a certain age, that’s why.  

But that turns out not to be a good enough reason.  It’s time for me to become a better listener, a better questioner, a more open-minded participant in ongoing conversations, rather than a self-appointed lecturer.  I swear, I’m going to listen more and preach less.  Maybe this should be true for more of my male boomer brethren.

I’m not quite sure how this new leaf fits with my young career as a blogger–bloggers blog (a euphimism for opine).  Let’s see where this goes from here.

Any ideas?



  • We are being bombarded from every direction by dramatic claims concerning a virus so deadly that we are closing our businesses , shutting down our schools and limiting human contact with one another. Politician are warning us about grave threats to our democracy and claiming that we MUST VOTE FOR THEM before our country falls apart . We worry that we will lose our jobs because of a failing economy and we will not be able to provide for our families . Then there is the continuous coverage of riots and protests and killings . Everyone is trying to make sense of it all . Is it whites against blacks ? Men against women ? Blacks against blacks ? Gangs against gangs? Are there planted protesters who are purposely instigating violence or are these groups of people who are so frightened and influenced by overly exaggerated information that they cannot control their emotions anymore and have basically gone bat shit crazy in the streets.? It is really a lot to process. Throw in your ordinary struggles with your significant other, your children or your boss if you still have a job. Your inability to do the basic things you are used to doing , like going to the all night grocery store or having time to shop after work or even finding food after a certain hour. It’s distressing. Everything we are accustomed too has changed in a matter of months with little or no warning. Steve, is it really your method of blogging that is an issue here or is there so much to write about , so much to say and ponder that you can’t decide on where to start? Do you feel yourself being somewhat angry about things that never bothered you before ? Are you frustrated with the general conditions under which you must live right now ? Has it changed your life , your relationships, your belief in mankind and made you suspicious as to wether you are even getting the truth out of anyone ? Don’t feel bad. I think we all feel a little blocked or confused or unsure about life right now . You have way too much to say to give up. See ….look what that post got out of me . It’s not about gender, or age or ethnicity or political party affiliations . I think Steve, it is about the human condition. Maybe if we can all slow down and stop grouping ourselves into categories that serve only to divide us and just look at ourselves as humans we will be just fine. Really , I believe that . Thanks for the helping me articulate that with your questions. I personally liked your method of teaching. It taught me to think for myself and question authority . I believe it worked really well . How about you?

    • You are so right in this description of the competing and confusing struggles we are all encountering. Sometimes trying to explain it all (while doing justice to our pre-conceived prejudices), we can work ourselves into a hate-filled snit. All those who think differently must be evil.

      We must figrue out how to carry on without throwing bombs at every turn.

      • I am missing your posts . I think they are all stimulating and interesting . Now is the time for you to write ! Keep going . Gosh , I bought some books and found some great articles because of the things you made me think about . I am sure others feel the same !

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