The New York Times has too many pages. I download more podcasts than I can play. I cannot read half of what my friends post on Facebook—particularly one recipe-happy friend. I cannot hear, read, or notice a significant portion of what is calling for my attention.
People who claim to know such things say that listeners can follow 1.2 conversations at a time. I can completely follow one conversation and one fifth of another. I can catch half of two conversations and one fifth of the third. I can follow three fifths of two conversations. But I cannot hear it all.
Some news shows feature three conversations going at the same time. The assumption seems to be that we will listen to whoever shouts the loudest. I cannot hear over the cacophony, so I have concluded that I need to listen less.
I need to ignore some conversations. I do not need to hear people who do not listen themselves, who do not empathize, or whose voices are full of hatred.
I should be leery of people who are paid to offer opinions. People who use their judgments to get wealthier are not the first people I need to hear.
I can stop reading editorials that only repeat what I already think. I can give a rest to flipping through channels to find someone saying what I want to hear.
I should not listen to people whose job is to defend bad ideas. I can turn off commentators who tell prejudiced people that they are not prejudiced.
I do not need to hear people who come to conclusions too easily. Listening to those who do not care is not the best use of my time.
I do not need to hear white people explaining what it is like to be black. I should listen to the victims of prejudice.
I do not need to hear those who critique Islam without having read the Koran. I should listen to committed Muslims.
I do not need to hear mean-spirited people with no evidence who enjoy saying that immigrants are the reason their cousin cannot find a job. I should listen to hard-working immigrants and the children of immigrants.
As the Department of Education abandons the poor, I do not need to hear those who have never been inside a public school discuss education. I need to listen to teachers.
I do not need to hear politicians on the payroll of gun manufacturers’ talk about the right to own an AK-47. I should listen to grieving parents.
I do not need to hear wealthy people pontificate on health care. I should listen to the sick, the elderly, and doctors in underserved areas.
I do not need to hear someone in a thousand dollar suit telling poor people how to manage their finances. I should listen to the ones who struggle to put food on the table.
I do not need to hear those who do not care about children escaping from Syria, bigoted people who do not have gay friends, or rich men on their third marriage who want to tell a poor woman what to do about her pregnancy. I should listen more to refugees, committed gay couples, and those with a uterus.
I need to hear people who do not sound like me. I need to listen to those who do not have a Twitter account. If the person I am listening to does not really love, then I am giving myself permission not to listen. I cannot hear everyone, so I need to listen more to those who are not often heard.