Sifting and settling

I worked in Alaska for three summers in a town called North Pole. In the area, there were old mines that attracted tourists for "sure thing" gold panning. You bring up sand and clay and, if you're lucky, find a gold flake or two (it is suggested to use tweezers to pick up your findings). I never did it, but a couple of summers ago I was excited to find my first shark's tooth. No sifting needed- it was right there on the beach as we were doing the Sanibel Stoop.

Every three months, my Google Calendar reminds me to change our home's AC filter. I'm always amazed at how much dust it traps (and whatever else is floating in the air). We're told when we have our routine HVAC maintenance that a regularly changed filter will save us a lot of money by eliminating preventable repairs down the road.

I wonder how much "stuff" is in the air that I mindlessly take in, forgetting to sift and filter. There's so much in the news that is really not new, but old, re-heated polarizations. Rather than fueling the fire of disagreement (and the consequent siloing of groups and positions), what if we choose to listen respectfully and hear, truly HEAR, the pain or worry or values or fears coming from someone with whom we don't agree? What does it cost us to hold our tongue (and opinion) sometimes and watch with loving concern and authentic interest?

There's a revered story about a disciple who asks his teacher's counsel to avoid overacting and impulsivity. The teacher hands him a pitcher and invites the student to fill it up from the nearby pond and then to observe the water. As the mud and dirt begin to fall, the teacher points out how clear the top of the liquid is: "Thus you too can learn to let your emotions and opinions settle before speaking."

As A.A. Milne writes, "If the person you are talking to doesn't appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear."