One of the things I love about my Buddhist practice is that it puts my life in rhythm. I’m not just a little microcosmic cog in a big, unfeeling machine. My life is in rhythm with the Big Macrocosmic Cog, inseparable from it. This manifests in so many ways, significant and otherwise. Not so much from the sublime to the ridiculous; more like from the entertaining to the remarkable.
Yesterday morning I listened to an interview on BBC Radio 6 Music with British rock/pop/jazz artist Elvis Costello. (For my young readers, Costello came to fame in England’s 1970s punk era and has enjoyed a healthy career in music ever since, largely thanks to his prodigious songwriting talent.) Asked about his musical influences as a young teen, Costello named fellow Liverpudlians The Beatles (yay!) and also various jazz artists, including Georgie Fame (whom I loved back in the day). The show host then played my favourite Georgie Fame hit, Yeh Yeh.
At night I watched a YouTube video on a fantastic Brit pop music TV show of the early ’60s, called Ready, Steady, Go! The vid was made up of very short clips of the many artists who appeared on the show. Including Georgie Fame, singing – you’ve guessed it – Yeh Yeh.
I thought about the night I went to Brunel University when I was a college student to see Georgie Fame playing with Alan Price (the former keyboard player of The Animals). Two great singers and keyboard players, they made a good combo.
This morning I listened briefly to a different programme on BBC Radio 6 Music, a show I listen to every weekend that plays an eclectic mix of music. Today, the host played an obscure 1971 song by… yup … Georgie Fame and Alan Price!
My audiobook this week has been Have A Little Faith by Mitch Albom. (He also wrote Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven, and if you haven’t read him at all, I highly recommend that you do. It’ll enrich you.) In Have A Little Faith, Albom quotes some memorable short stories his Rabbi used in his sermons to gently make a point.
One of these stories takes place between a little girl and her mother. The little girl wants to tell her mummy something important, and because the mother is busy doing something, she keeps repeating to the child’s entreaties that she’s listening. Finally, the little girl exclaims, “But you’re not listening with your eyes!”
Rabbi Lewis made his point well. I immediately thought of all the times I’ve listened to someone on the phone while doing something else, telling myself that it was okay, because I was multitasking. Yet I know that every human being craves and needs attention. It somehow affirms that we’re here, that we matter.
A day or so later, while reading a work newsletter, to my surprise I came across this Chinese pictogram:
This delighted me! Eyes placed even higher than ears in importance! The rest of the pictogram is self-explanatory, except perhaps for “King.” It means listening to the other person as though they were your king or queen, to make them feel that important by giving them your undivided attention.
I immediately thought of Daisaku Ikeda, my Buddhist mentor, who has always taught – and modelled through his own behaviour – how important it is to give the person in front of you at any given moment your total, undivided attention. Essentially, to open your heart to them, because you may never have the opportunity to meet them again.
This morning I participated in a Buddhist meeting on Zoom. During a breakout group discussion, one of the ladies remarked how much she enjoyed being able to see everyone’s face, and that usually in her Zoom district meetings, everyone except the person speaking switches off their camera. This lady is Chinese, which made me think of the pictogram, so I shared the gist of it with her, and encouraged her to be the first one in her district to start showing herself so that others will start doing the same.
If the repeated lockdowns we’ve all gone through – suffered from, in many cases – have taught us anything, it is that humans need contact and interaction with other humans in order to feel human. Opening our eyes, our ears and our hearts to people is one of the “secrets” for living a fulfilling life. And because fundamentally we are all One, when we give in that wholehearted way to another person, it enriches us, too.
So I’m going to continue chanting and enjoying the rhythm of life, and learning what life wants to teach me. Because I’m listening!