hearing vs. listening

According to Merrian-Webster, the word “hear” is defined as “to perceive or become aware of by the ear,” whereas the word “listen” means “to pay attention to sound.”

Hearing is a transitive verb. Listening is an intransitive verb.

Hearing is passive. Listening is active.

I’m telling you all this because I’m trying to hear less and listen more.

what i’m listening to — 5.13.19

I’m a big believer in sharing the work that inspires us. As a result, here are some songs and albums that I’ve had on repeat lately.

1. Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties — Routine Maintenance

Imagine if Dan Campbell of The Wonder Years fronted The Mountain Goats, then wrote a series of songs detailing a cross-country odyssey that ends in making the conscious choice to be “someone you can count on for a change.”

Key Tracks: “Lead Paint and Salt Air,” ” Rosa & Reseda,” “Routine Maintenance”

2. Jimmy Eat World — Clarity

Always worth revisiting when you find yourself in a period of self-discovery.

Key Tracks: “A Sunday,” “Goodbye Sky Harbor”

3. Vampire Weekend — Father of The Bride


Key tracks: “Hold You Now (feat. Danielle Hiam),” “This Life”

4. blink-182 – “Blame It On My Youth”

I’ve been a blink since I was a kid and their recent releases with Matt Skiba are some of their best efforts. While this first single off an upcoming album that promises to be more experimental than 2016’s California doesn’t quite pack the punch I’d like, it’ definitely shows the band pushing in a more experimental direction.

5. Amanda Palmer – “The Ride”

I’ll make the embarrassing confession that I hadn’t listened to Amanda Palmer or her band, The Dresden Dolls, prior to reading her book, The Art of Asking (which I highly recommend for anyone and everyone). After hearing her on a recent episode of Brian Koppelman’s The Moment, listening to her new album, There Will Be No Intermission, became one of my top priority’s. This particular song, a sweeping ballad depicting the despair and restlessness so many of us encounter these days, absolutely ruined me the first time I heard it. “The climb to the crest is less frightening with someone to clutch you, but isn’t it nice when we’re all afraid at the same time?” she asks in the gradual slope towards the chorus. Somehow, picturing Amanda sitting and singing beside me makes getting through these days a little easier.

the problem with expertise

No one enjoys feeling stupid.

We avoid it at all costs. We want to be seen as informed and educated to those around us. We devour news articles and binge-watch YouTue videos and when we see a movie or read a book, we’re cautious to share our opinions until we’ve confirmed with those around us that our thoughts are valid.

We’re all trying to prove that we’re experts.

I saw Austin Kleon speak last week and he said something interesting when someone describes him as a guru. The problem with gurus, he said, is they’ve elevated themselves beyond the work. They’ve stopped asking questions. If you really want to learn from someone, look for the person working amidst the muck, still trying to figure things out.

It seems that with the entirety of human knowledge slotting into our pocket, we’ve all promoted ourselves to guru status. We’re all experts because we all know everything. It’s right there in our phone (or the “magic box of knowledge” as some members of my family have come to calling it.) “I read an article recently,” you’ll hear someone say just before positing a political opinion or movie review. We’re all so eager to prove that we’re experts, but in doing so, we’re also robbing ourselves of the opportunity to learn and grow.

We as a society have ascribed value to conversation. There are winners and losers. Those who are proven right in an argument win and those who change their minds lose. But I think this is really backwards. When you’re the expert or the winner of the argument, you don’t grow. You don’t change. You don’t learn anything.

When you don’t know something, you have the opportunity to expand yourself. Changing your mind can actually change your life.

There’s the old saying that goes something like, “The more you know, the more you realize you don’t.” And I think this is truer than ever. If we really know anything, we’d all recognize how much we don’t actually know.

This isn’t me granting permission to dismiss science or logic or anything like that, because, let’s be honest, that’s what got us into this whole mess in the first place. All I’m saying is, what would happen if we set aside our egos long enough to consider that our beliefs, our opinions, our worldviews, aren’t the definitive truth. What would happen if we let ourselves be wrong?

Maybe we’d all grow. Maybe we’d all learn more. Maybe we’d all speak less and listen more. Maybe we’d find we’re capable of more than we ever anticipated.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be wrong more often…

a confession and a promise

I’m bad a blogging.

Maybe you’ve noticed. This is the first post that appears on my website since I’ve redesigned and relaunched it. Every few years, I clean house and start over.

I used to blog a lot. I shared things that inspired me, ideas I was thinking about, music I was listening to, and tiny snapshots from my little corner of the world. Some of these things were really just rough drafts, tiny bits that weren’t even truly shareable. They were embarrassing, to be honest. And it’s difficult to have tiny parts of yourself on display attached to a URL that features your name.

I was listening to a podcast called The Moment with Brian Koppelman last night. During Brian’s conversation with TV critics Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller, they discussed how the internet has made it difficult to keep record of great criticism and entertainment writing. Before, if you wanted to find Roger Ebert’s thoughts on a particular film, all you had to do was sift through the backstock at your local library. Now, when looking for a particular piece of criticism, be it a blog post, a tweet, or comment on a website, it’s likely you won’t find it. Blogs disappear. Tweets get deleted. Websites get shut down.

Gee, that sounds familiar…

In his book, Share Your Work, Austin Kleon talks about sharing something small every day. As you do so, the days accumulate into weeks into months into years. The more you share, the larger your archive.

Somehow, this is a lesson that never stuck with me. I’m often embarrassed by what I’ve made and therefore, throw it out the first chance I get. Instead, I should be trying to be better. If you’re busy making and sharing new work, you stop worrying about the old work.

So here’s my promise to you moving forward: no more spring cleaning. As I keep writing and creating and exploring, nothing gets deleted. This whole thing is a process, so let’s walk through it together. It’s not as if we’re going to run out of digital drawer space anytime soon.

Let’s get to work…