I’m listening to Fresh Air on the way up to the lake, the host Terry Gross is interviewing a scientist, Linda Griffith, who became famous for her work in grafting scar tissue shaped like a human ear onto the back of a mouse. Apparently the way a wound heals is key.
Why am I listening to this?
The whole growing an ear thing struck a chord with me as my ear was nearly bitten off when I was six by an aggressive dog at a children’s slumber party. Linda’s project was motivated by a plastic surgeon who treats children who have lost ears but when he tried to replace the outer part of the ear it wouldn’t take. Linda jumped in to see if she could improve the process.
You would think a lizard would be a better choice, but I assume it’s more complicated than I’m imagining, and who wants a lizard ear?
All I know is the things that are important come in twos (except the trinity because they’ve got Spirit), as in relationships, but also eyes, hands, feet, lungs, and yes, breasts. It could be argued, but I think it is with our ears that we understand the people, the music, the world around us.
Sunday Adelaja says women love with their ears, men with their eyes.
Reattaching an ear is all rather gory, so I’ll spare you the details, but it got me thinking about communication, because in the heat of a pillow fight dogs can’t hear, they react, and sometimes they bite.
Take out the pillow and people are much the same. As Marilyn Monroe says, “dogs never bite me. Just humans.”
I’m All Ears
I strongly believe we feel much more than we are capable of communicating whether human or dog. I suppose that’s why we give each other gifts. And by gifts I mean mercy, compassion, forgiveness but also companionship, kindness, intimacy. These are love tokens, so powerful they can alter the trajectory of our lives, but we can be stingy with our tokens, because they can never be reclaimed.
This is key, love is non-refundable, it’s a willingness to sacrifice a part of ourselves that is not redeemable.
Maybe death, or our quietus (such a perfect word), is when there’s nothing left to give?
I hope you have been in the presence of someone who truly loves you because it trumps a good meal, great sex, or a perfectly aged glass of wine, honestly, to know acceptance, approval, validation is sheer jouissance. It’s the kind of space you hate to leave as if a warm bed, a gentle embrace, a mother’s womb.
It’s where you feel safe.
The Infected Ear
Think of how we plunge into one reactive emotion after the other, laughing one moment, barking the next. What if we paid attention to these transitory emotions, made a conscious effort not to scar others with our words, what if we realized these are reactions to our own thoughts, not necessarily truth?
We harbor a lot of vile emotions, the ones we struggle to repress, such as resentment, frustration, jealously, and anger. We tuck those so deeply in the crevices of our souls it’s as if rust in an old pipe that destroys from the inside out, bursting unexpectedly, spewing bile water.
Don’t you think it’s interesting that we have the ability to recognize the presence of anger or indifference within seconds of encountering someone? We feel it on a cellular level but indifference is worse than anger in my opinion. Anger is honest, indifference is evil. The most confusing thing in the world is when someone says they love you but intuitively you know this is a lie. It feels like a slap in the face only the sting lasts much longer.
All I know is I need to belong, to be heard, to matter, to have a purpose, because to be in relationship with the sacred and others is why we exist. Although I think I’d make a pretty good monk but camping in the desert is not my thing and burlap robes make me look frumpy.
It reminds me of what Matthew asks us to consider when we observe something amiss with those we love he says, “why do you look at the speck of sawdust in her eye and pay no attention to the splinter in your own? To see clearly you must remove your own impediments before you can improve others,” [adapted]. And by impediments he means an egregious lack of character.
The Perforated Ear
We are born into bodies that are not fully operational, we’re completely dependent, helpless, hapless creatures. I think it’s interesting that the first things we learn are how to cuddle, touch, kiss, and smile but by two years of age, we’re envious, prone to hitting, stubborn, and demanding. By six we want a cell phone and pierced ears.
What the hell?
I’ve been dismissed most of my life, correction, my brain has been dismissed, tall blonds are welcomed in most situations, but not necessarily for their intellect.
As adults we still silently fume, burn, ache for our parent’s approval, this need follows us into our primary relationships, and eventually we bequeath this yearning to our children and dogs (cats could care less). All we want is for our unique intelligence to be acknowledged, honored, confirmed. We’re like puppies following each other around, hoping for a pat on the head, a gentle touch, a kind word.
I don’t know about you but I live with a constant flow of thoughts, followed by waves of emotion, where this quiet observer floats on an inflatable pink raft, she’s anchored behind the eyes, with the ears always accessible. She never stops scanning the world for sequences out of place, for confirmation of that which I know to be true, for genuine connection, sometimes the openings are so small she has to reshape herself to fit in. She’s searching for empathy, compassion, and love because that is what she craves, it’s eucharistic, from Greek, meaning a well of grace.
I’m about to make another leap, stay with me, we’re almost home.
An Accessible Ear
If anything dogs have adorable ears, they love unconditionally, forgive immediately, and are enormously loyal. If we attributed those qualities to a person we would say they were angelic, seraphic, saintly. Rare would be a more accurate description.
Someone who holds space that no one wants to leave?
I’ve come to a new plateau in life where I no longer worry (obsessively) about what the world thinks. It’s a matter of valuing myself and being true to the person I am becoming, because I am not wise, often incorrigible, unredeemable to some, but perfect doesn’t exist, unless you’re a dog or my sister.
Perhaps this is life’s way of fighting back, that sometimes something happens that transcends our overbearing natures and calcified suppositions. It could be anything, but very likely it’s an unexpected kindness, a generous pardon, a yielding to the alienation and estrangement we often encounter in life. Maybe this is where love begins. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty, joy is not made to be a crumb says Mary Oliver.
The years pass quickly, if you are not cherished, protected, esteemed, including the broken bits, by the people who were granted the privilege of knowing you, consider them a valuable messenger, say “thank you,” rinse the sawdust out of your eye, and get a dog that doesn’t bite.
I’m Living in the Gap, my bite is playful, how about you?
- “No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.” Alice Walker
- “Every woman that finally figured out her worth, has picked up her suitcases of pride and boarded a flight to freedom, which landed in the valley of change.” Shannon L. Alder
- “If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.” A. A. Milne
- “Your dreaming self seeks to tell you something your waking ears will not hear” Jacqueline Carey
- “We can’t always know what’s behind a child’s question. But if we let a child know we respect the question, we’re letting that child know that we respect him or her. What a powerful way to say, ‘I care about you!’ – Fred Rogers