Thursday, March 20, 2008

text weirdness

As an aside, I'm having some issues with blogger's text options. I've been playing with it to try to make the text size and kerning consistent, but at this point I'm ready to throw the computer through the window, so I think I've had enough. I'm sorry if it bugs you, but for now we'll have to live with it. Creative Commons License

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Another Hero: Pete Seeger

Before I delve into another set of thoughts on listening (and it's coming, don't worry) I wanted to touch upon another of my heroes while he's fresh in my mind. The other night while making dinner (roasted eggplant with cilantro green sauce, seared tilapia, stuffed clams) I stumbled across an American Masters program about Pete Seeger. The food was a little saltier than I'd intended, seasoned with tears of joy for his life, sorrow that his work is still so relevant and remembrance for everything his music has meant to me.

I am so moved by this man's bravery and integrity. Not that his actions are news to me, but I am reminded of it anew. Talk about walking in hope - for peace, justice, environmental health and welfare and more. Pete has sung out for civil rights, human rights, labor, kids - he has helped shape the current progressive agenda. And he's done all of this while being a decent human being. He is relentlessly hopeful that we can be our better selves, living in kindness, compassion and with respect for all living things. That takes immense courage and inner resourcefulness - it's easy to get hopeless and forget that we have the capacity to change, grow and be kind. Pete reminds us that we can.

He invoked the First Amendment when called in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee. How's that for courage! He's named in the Supreme Court case that helped to establish precedent for conscientious objectors. Anyone who says arts and artists don't make a difference should look at this man.

Plus the man sings and encourages us to sing! I bet, regardless of whatever kind of music you like, you know some of his songs. How about this, "To every thing, turn, turn turn..." I bet you hear a melody. Or, "Where have all the flowers gone..." or... well, you know what I mean.

Heroes come in many different shapes and sizes. Pete Seeger reminds me that hope is a verb - it move us to action and feeds us. He reminds me that voices lifted together in song are stronger than those shouting in discord. He reminds me that human beings, regardless of race, color or creed have the potential for such love, such joy and such music. Thanks, Pete.

ps - the photo is from, a lovely appreciation site.

(c) 2008 Laura Packer
Creative Commons License

Friday, March 14, 2008

The overheard

I'll start with this. I wrote about keeking a long time ago, that fine art of taking a little peek in on something, a glance. I do this with listening too - you might call it eavesdropping, I would call it... research. Or maybe a way of life.

Take this example. Last weekend Kevin and I were having breakfast at a pleasant little restaurant. It was really crowded, cheek to jowl. A couple of young guys were near us and had a conversation something like this:

"So how was it last night?"
"Oh, man, it was sweet! There were only, like, two or three fights. Though this one girl took it really hard on the head and was holding herself up on a pole afterwards. It really wasn't that bad."

Within another sentence or two they were talking about if they should start a housecleaning business or stick with their jobs for another six months because, "The work is like, balls, but it's at least a steady income and until I'm ready to do something on my own I really can't complain."

I'm just grateful they didn't look over and notice me jotting all this down. Being 40 and invisible does have its advantages I guess, though that could be another post.

Meanwhile, the couple on the other side was having a heartfelt discussion about literature, the future of their relationship, and the cost of gas.

I love those overheard gems. They help me remember that we aren't really so different from one another, that we all have largely the same cares and concerns. I can't say that an evening with only two or three fights would be my idea of a good time, but I can identify with his excitement and energy and the thrill of just being alive. All the while the other couple was so very much a chick-flick one moment and then real-world every-day the next. And I live that life too, the one of operatic concerns and mundanities.

Any of this material would seem very cinema-verite, but it doesn't need the cinema part. Just by listening I have a greater connection to the real life that happens all around me. And this is just passive listening, simply by being in an environment and extending my ears. I get to absorb stories, process them and my world becomes a bigger place. How cool is that?

So by just listening I learn about the secrets and truths in the human heart. I learn about the threads that connect us. I gather material for characters and stories. And I get to remember that I am one of many and just as easily overheard. How wonderful! Someday I might show up on someone else's blog.

So the other day I overheard this woman talking to her friend and she said... Creative Commons License

Wednesday, March 5, 2008





Take a moment and just listen to what's happening around you. What do you hear?

It can be hard to just listen, whether to your environment, to a selected sound such as music, to ourselves, or to another person. We're so accustomed to our own running monologues or to filling our environments with other sounds that when we take the time to just listen, it can be a little overwhelming. Yet this experience can lead to a transcendental moment, to deeper understanding of another person or our own self.

In the last few months, when I haven't been writing, I've been listening. I've been listening to other people. I've been listening to a lot of music. And I've been listening to myself again, by writing in my journal. I've also been thinking about listening and the universe is tossing more stuff to me about listening in the shape of books and websites and random conversations. So I think I want to spend the next few posts writing about listening.

You already know I'm a storyteller, that I create my own works of fiction and non-fiction and perform them in front of adult audiences. Well, good storytelling comes out of listening to the audience. More than that, it comes out of being listened to deeply prior to the performance. More than that, it comes out of listening to the world around you to find those kernels that become stories in the first place. Storytelling is an act of listening.

If storytelling is my life's work, as I believe it to be, then listening is also my life's work. Helping others learn how to listen and understand the impact of deep listening is part of that work.

That being said, I'll stop here. There's too much in my head, too much I want to cover for one post. I'll be back soon.

For now though -

Listen. Don't interrupt. What do you hear?

(c) 2008 Laura S Packer
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True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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