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BRAIN FOOD - Part 1: What it REALLY Means to Listen.

The following was written while I was living and working in Spain.

May 13, 2019

Murcia, Spain

As I rode the early morning bus, studying the monotonous, sepia toned landscape on my normal route to work, there was a woman sitting in the seats to my right, on the phone.

She wasn’t speaking much, until I heard her repeatedly say, “no te escucho” into the phone, before finally hanging up.

Based on her tone and patience, she was obviously telling the recipient “I can’t hear you”. And even though my brain immediately translated this phrase without a problem, I started to think more about it.

If you take a direct and literal translation of “no te escucho” , you also get, “I don’t listen to you”- which, in English, has a whole different meaning than, “I can’t hear you”.

Now, I’m nerdy and a big thinker, so obviously I let my mind travel through the “nuancical” (not actually a word, but used like one) differences between the two languages regarding this phrase.

At the end of it I was left with two words: hear and listen


We see how in one language sometimes the verb is used the same for both words, while in another language it almost never is.

But then I had to wonder- why are those two words different in English?

As in, specifically, what is the difference between hear and listen?

Although you may be able to deduct 100 reasons for this, I boiled the reason down to one simple word.


You can hear things all day long without deciding to (unless you wear hearing aids). We hear thousands of words and sounds every single day without making a distinct choice about it.

However, listening is always a choice.

You choose what you let into your brain and what you internalize. You choose what sounds and words you let your subconscious interact with and what you let your spirit soak up.

For example, the lady sitting to the right of me on the bus... or even all the other people talking on the bus that day... I merely only heard them. Yet, I have no remnants of what they said.

On the other hand, after I heard the woman say “no te escucho”, I chose to listen to it.

(Because, by the way, those two actions can, but don’t always have to happen at the same time).

I found this both obvious and inspirational as I realized the utility of this lesson, as it applies to many facets of life.

You may not always be able to control what you hear, but you do decide what you listen to.

So, start choosing the healthy things.

Listen to the positive, encouraging words of others.

Listen to constructive criticism.

Listen to your heart (eww, Jeannie, how cliché).

Listen to the hard truth.

Listen to the silly nonsense that makes you laugh uncontrollably.

Listen to those who are wiser than you.

Listen to the sounds of nature,

...the joy in a baby’s laughter,

...and the silence.

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