“someone who didn’t know how to ask wouldn’t know how to listen”

Finally, a way to acknowledge Martin Luther King that rings true for me. Sure, I could be a grand person and go to march planned for the day, but it is cold and wet AND I had this whole day free to work on my novel. That’s me–selfish to no end. So, I could be doing these I’m-a-better-person things, but I’d be out there the whole time thinking about the characters in my book and I’d be irritated at King for taking me away from it and I’d feel guilty for wanting to be with my novel instead.

But tonight I have read Simple Blog Writer’s blog, and lo! A wonderful idea that cheers and means something. Apparently, Brian Lehrer of WNYC “invites listeners to read about a culture other than their own.” How great is that? You’ve got reading, sharing, and book buying all in one. It may not change the world, but I agree with SBW–it’s nice to think of people searching shelves for a different voice. I mean, hey, what do you have on your shelf?

In the spirit of the day, I’ve gotten out one of my favorite novels ever and selected a passage to share. If it speaks to you, go buy the book.

But on second thought, someone who didn’t know how to ask wouldn’t know how to listen. And he coulda listened to then the way you been listening to us right now. Think about it: ain’t nobody really talking to you. We’re sitting here in Willow Springs, and you’re God-knows-where. It’s August 1999–ain’t but a slim chance it’s the same season where you are. Uh, huh, listen. Really listen this time: the only voice is your own.

Mama Day by Gloria Naylor

Now, I’d love for you to find something and share it with me.

5 thoughts on ““someone who didn’t know how to ask wouldn’t know how to listen”

  1. Oh, I like Gloria Naylor. I haven’t read this book, but I do like the quote – “someone who didn’t know how to ask wouldn’t know how to listen.”

    Here’s one from a book by an modern Amish woman about Amish children. I find it fascinating in contrast to the way the rest of America is raising children.

    “Amish schools prepare their children to be God-fearing, hard-working and self-supporting persons. They do not, however, teach them to be self-seeking, amibtious, and competitive.

    “Amish children learn to support themselves by the work of their hands. They learn basic business principles, how to borrow and lend money, how to sew their own clothes, plan and cook meals, prepare a field and drive a horse and buggy team…

    “An Amish child is not taught to have selfish needs of privacy, space, recognition and admiration, ambition and rewards that a child in a large society absorbs as its birthright.”

    THE AMISH SCHOOL by Sara E. Fisher and Rachel K. Stahl.

  2. This is great. I lived in Japan for a year, and I love to learn about other cultures. Of course, when I was in Japan, I read very little about it, but I did read about it when I got home… I know, kind of silly, but that’s what I did.

    Here’s a quote from a wonderful book titled, CONFUCIUS LIVES NEXT DOOR: What Living in the East Teaches Us about Living in the West by T.R. Reid:

    “In Asian cultures, where the well-being of the community as a whole outweighs the interest of any single individual, it seems logical that notions of right and wrong will also be determined by the overall group rather than by the individual. That, at least, is the thesis of a distinguished group of sociologists and psychologists, both Asian and Western, who argue that the–or, at least, a–fundamental difference between East and West is the difference between shame and guilt.”

    (Also, I have something for you over at my blog.)

  3. SBW, I’d like to read the Amish book. I always feel that they aren’t as odd as I think–I’ve just not learned anything much about them.

    Shelli, I did something similar. I didn’t read anything about Eastern Europe until I’d lived there for two years. Such is the way of human beings.

  4. Marta, a book you might like about the Amish is called Switched Off. The author’s first name is Eric and I can’t remember his last name. He was a sociologist student, if I remember correctly, and he and his wife spent a year living among the Amish doing participatory research. Interesting stuff. I have a long-lasting interest in the Amish and thought Eric’s book provided real insight to their complex culture (though he is careful not to pinpoint which group he studied). The book is an easy read, not a heavy academic read. The whole concept of why a community would place such value on cooperative WORK has stuck with me and changed the way I do a few things.

    Shelli, I liked the quote you picked from Japan. I read a book called Learning to Bow or something like that. (Sorry I’m not fact-checking today on these details.) It’s about an American who works in Japan for a year as an English teacher. I don’t know much about Japanese culture, but I felt very American reading his book…which isn’t something I expected to feel. Our cultures are different and the group vs. individual was striking to me. I’ll look up the book you mentioned, so thanks for suggesting it. I think I recognize the author’s name: is he a commentator on NPR?

  5. I rarely come back to old posts, but I decided to come back here since I found it so interesting, and I’m thrilled to find these messages.

    First – yes, I think I read more “American” books while I was in Japan because I had a touch of culture shock, or maybe a lot.

    SBW – Yes, he’s the commentator on NPR, but I don’t think I’ve heard him on the radio. I don’t listen enough, I guess. When I came back from Japan, I felt so American, and I met some of my family, and I was like, “Oh my god they are so American.” We are bound by our cultures so much more than we know. This has really influenced my thinking.

    Since I was an English teacher in Japan for a year, I have often thought I should read some of the books that my fellow teachers wrote, but then I think that I’d like to write about my experience someday, and I don’t want to be influenced by the way they write, so I may wait until after I’ve written what I’ve got to say.

    By the way, SBW, do you know your RSS feed does not work on your blog? I have bookmarked it, but I forget to go there since I depend on this bit of technology.

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