When they returned home, Ernie’s mother was fixing the dinner. Just as they entered the kitchen, she saw a cockroach and immediately crushed it. Ernie looked at his father mischievously and said, “Will you tell her, Dad, or shall I?”
Your question really makes me wonder how you have been listening. And perhaps this is the state of many of you. You listen to what you want to listen, not what is being said. You go on continuously interpreting according to your old prejudices. Your mind is continuously interfering; it does not allow what is being said to reach to your heart. What reaches to you is something else, distorted, disfigured, maybe so distorted that it is almost the opposite of what has been said.
One has to learn very earnestly the art of listening. It is a difficult art, and the greatest difficulty is that everybody thinks he knows it. Just because you can hear, you think you can also listen. And these are two differing things, so different that unless you start listening you will never know the difference.
In the dictionaries they mean the same thing, but in actual life hearing is only because you have ears. Listening happens when just behind your ears there is no noisy mind but a silent, receptive alertness. If there is a continuously chattering mind behind the ears you only seem to listen. Then there are going to be misunderstandings.
I myself was very shocked when I came to know that psychologists have discovered that the mind does not allow ninety-eight percent of information to reach you. It only allows two percent; ninety-eight percent is simply rejected in many different ways. Either it gives it a new color, a new meaning, or it misses it deliberately, takes it into a different context where the meaning changes. But the distortion percentage is ninety-eight percent. The two percent it allows without distorting, because it agrees with its old structure.
So it listens only to itself. Those two percent are agreeable to the mind and so it immediately allows them in without creating obstructions, without creating arguments, doubts, misinterpretations. And language is vulnerable; each word can mean many things. The mind has the capacity to choose any meaning it wants, any meaning that fits with it.
The art of listening is based on silence in the mind, so that the mind does not interfere, it simply allows whatever is coming to you. I am not saying you have to agree with it. Listening does not mean that you have to agree with it, neither does it mean that you have to disagree with it. The art of listening is just pure listening, factual, undistorted. And once you have listened then comes the point whether you agree or not, but the first thing is to listen.