Chapter 5: The Art of Listening
If a person becomes quiet and talks to no one, he establishes no relationships and gradually people will begin to forget him. Dumb people are the most miserable, even more so than a blind man. Notice carefully that you feel more pity for the dumb than the blind. While it is true that the blind man cannot see, he does establish relationships; he can have a wife; he can talk to his children; he can be a part of society; he can have friends. But the mute is closed within himself with no way out, no way for him to establish contact with others. You can sense his difficulty in the agony of his gestures. When you cannot follow him, how helpless and miserable he feels. There is no one more pitiable than a dumb person: he cannot talk, he cannot open his heart to anyone, he cannot express his feelings of love or joy or sorrow and unburden his mind.
As the mute is incapable of establishing contact with others, so you have become incapable of establishing contact with yourself. Where you should be dumb - absolutely silent - you keep on talking. The other is not there at all, so to whom do you talk? You raise questions yourself and then answer them yourself. This is nothing but a sign of madness. The only difference between a mad person and you is that the mad person talks aloud to himself while you talk silently. Some day you too may join their ranks and begin to talk aloud. Right now you manage to repress the insanity within, but it can erupt any moment, because it is a cancerous ulcer.
Why does this internal dialogue go on? What is the reason? It is out of simple habit. All life long you are taught how to speak. A child is born and the first concern of all around him is that he should speak as early as possible since this is considered a sign of intelligence; the longer he takes, the duller he is considered to be.
Since talking is a social art and man is part of society, how happy the parents are when the child talks. Also many necessities of life are fulfilled by talking: when you are hungry, thirsty, you can express your need. It affords a protection in life.
What on earth is the use of silence? It seems to be useless. It holds no meaning in our day-to-day life. How can you go shopping if you are silent? How will you satisfy the various needs of the body without communication? We are so habituated to talking that we talk even in sleep, all twenty-four hours of the day; talking is automatic.
We keep on talking and rehearsing. Before talking to someone we rehearse the dialogue internally; and then, after the conversation, we repeat over and over all that happened - what I said and what you said, and then what I said - and we gradually forget what we are losing by this useless talk. Externally you may be gaining something, but within you are certainly losing contact with yourself. You are getting closer to people while you are becoming further removed from yourself. And the more adept you become at this game, the harder it will be for you to go into silence. Habit! And habit cannot be broken just like that.
When a person walks he makes use of his legs; while sitting there is no need to move your legs. When you are hungry you eat; if a person keeps on eating when not hungry it is a sign of insanity. Similarly, if you try to sleep when you are not sleepy it is inviting unnecessary frustration. But we do not think the same way when it comes to talking. We never say that we shall stop all talk unless it is a necessity.