Note: This post was written as a comment in response to a fellow blogger’s post about his longing to be heard and accepted, and his realization the very desire to be heard erodes our ability to listen, and in turn, to truly communicate with those around us. The blog post that elicited this response can be found here.
For many years now I have been mediating on the linkage between being seen and heard, and being loved… and conversely, seeing and hearing another, and loving them. My first memory of this connection came from reading Viktor Frankl’s reflections on love:
“Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.”
To love another means to see them, and to truly see them, they must be heard. This dynamic of seeing and hearing is also central to the extension of justice. At the core of injustice is the capacity and power to silence and make the oppressed invisible. To refuse to listen, to refuse to see.
On the other hand, to hear and to see the Other is the very essence of love. This was the miracle that happened on the day of Pentecost; it was not the tongues of fire or the healing of the sick, or the raising of the dead that were the miracles, as wonderful as those things were. No. Rather, it was that a band of infighting misfits – who wrangled over who was greatest, while the One who was Greatest anguished over his impending torture and murder – these competitive, compulsive misfits were suddenly empowered from above to love one another. Did they do it perfectly? No, but they did it profoundly – so much so, that they “turned the world upside down” (according to their critics).
If Jesus had stopped there, had stopped at the greatest commandment and the second that is like it, perhaps we might find some loophole that would allow us to feel (mostly) comfortable with his command. But he went further to something so revolutionary it is still scoffed at today, and if not openly scoffed, it is conveniently ignored. Meditating on the linkage of seeing and hearing with love, justice and mercy, I find these words of Jesus astounding:
“Love your enemies.”