We listen, but we do not hear

Sometimes it’s hard to listen attentively, especially when people leave the most important information until the end of their speech. I am an undisciplined listener. I listen but I don’t hear. All it takes is one word that may catch my 6-25 Page 4A.inddattention and snatch my thought process completely away from the topic. This is how I miss the crucial part of directions, schedules and appointments. Unless the speaker is riveting in his presentation and commands my attention somehow, my thoughts flit around from one thing to another, not necessarily in any logical order.

It’s not that I’m consciously inattentive. It’s just that the things I pay attention to may not be what the speaker is saying. He may have wonderful information. But if he speaks in a monotone or has an unpleasant delivery, I may be focused on the collar of his shirt, trying to decide if it’s permanent press that was left in the dryer too long or maybe 100 percent cotton that just didn’t make it to the ironing board.

Maybe I’m watching a fly circling his head and am wondering if it’s going to light anywhere.

Maybe he’s a blinker. This distracts me easily. I may sit there as though hanging on every word when in reality I’m counting the number of times he blinks in a minute.

If he’s speaking before lunch, I always wonder if he ate before coming or if he’s planning to eat later. I wonder what he had for breakfast.

If the speaker is female, I always wonder if she has children and if so how she managed to get out of the house put together with her hair combed.

Remember when Hiklary Clinton was first lady and so much attention was given to how she wore her hair? Didn’t it make you wonder? Here was an articulate and intelligent person who could express herself knowledgeably on a number of subjects, and all the media wanted to talk about was how her hair looked. I do notice a speaker’s hair, but not to the exclusion of other things.

I’ve noticed that although Secretary of State John Kerry has very thick and wiry hair, we never hear news stories about how his hair looks and whether it is more flattering this week than last. Also, nobody every talks about his suits or what color tie he wears.

When Hillary was secretary of state, this was not the case. Her clothes were always noted, and detailed descriptions were given. As much time was spent describing her appearance as was spent talking about the issues she was addressing. Go figure.

Sometimes a speaker can grab my attention with a single word. This happened last week during the president’s address to the nation. As we all are, I was concerned about what we are going to do next in the Middle East.

President Obama repeatedly referred to the terrorist group running rampant in the Middle East as ISIL instead of ISIS. This grabbed my attention, so I did a little research.

The explanation offered in the Washington Post states: “On Sunday, President Obama went on ‘Meet the Press’ to talk with new host Chuck Todd. They talked at length about terrorism and the administration’s plans to counter it, but they didn’t couldn’t quite agree on what to call the enemy.

“I’m preparing the country to make sure that we deal with a threat from ISIL,” Obama said. ISIL stands for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Todd followed up with, “Obviously, if you’re going to defeat ISIS, you have used very much stronger language.” ISIS stands for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.” For those who aren’t familiar with the Levant, don’t worry. I looked it up.

“The Levant is a name applied to the lands of the eastern Mediterranean. The term, once widely used but now becoming obsolete, usually refers to Syria, Lebanon and Israel. It occasionally includes adjacent countries. The word Levant means “the East” and was probably first applied to the region by Italian traders in the 13th century. Syria and Lebanon were called the Levant States when they were French mandates.”

Anytime I think we may be going to war, I listen to every single word the president says. So this time I listened carefully to the entire speech. And after listening, I realized how woefully ignorant I still am about the Middle East and all the issues there. It will take some effort on my part to correct this situation.