Listening to Ourselves
by Jennifer Paros
Think higher, feel deeper.
-- Eli Wiesel
journal writing class years ago, I was taught to look more closely
at any and all aspects of my experience through dialoguing.
So, if I had a headache, I’d talk to it. If I were stuck in my work,
I’d ask it pointed questions. If I were chronically angry, I’d take
it to the page, opening conversation with a person, event, or the
emotion itself. I was, of course, playing all the roles, but that
was okay because I was hoping to learn more about my own internal
writer, it was great practice. Every time I asked a question, I
listened for the answer inwardly. I was learning to allow myself to
open to the possibility of new thought coming, to allow for
surprise, to think irregularly and perhaps gain insight.
thoughts are those I’ve thought before. They are thoughts I’ve
seen, heard, written, repeated. They form around subjects but also
around emotions, clustered together in nests, like hives, all over
my inner landscape. There’s nothing new about them; they’re
familiar. Creative production out of these involves a synthesis of
what already exists. It’s much like the relationship Craft has to
Art. Craft and Art are each valuable and serve differently.
Traditionally, Art has been viewed as striving for higher thought, a
deeper relationship to life, whereas Craft often creates and builds
from a functional angle - though usually with aesthetic
consideration as well.
regular thoughts speak to the idea of Craft. I build with them
daily for various purposes. They’re as familiar as my morning
routine, my favorite things to eat, or tying my shoes. I’ve got
them down. Although I may recombine them in varying ways,
breakthroughs and revelations tend not to occur during this
irregular thoughts land in the realm of Art. These thoughts
don’t fit. They are unlinked to my personal history and story.
They’re individualists; they’re not “joiners.” They’re not products
of reactive thinking or emotional triggers and when they come I
recognize them, not because I’ve seen them before (like regular
thoughts) but because I feel different, clearer, and elevated in
thinking them. They open my heart, they speak in the language of
hope, and I see a bigger picture than I do when crafting with my
Illustration by Jennifer Paros - Copyright 2013
never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational
-- Albert Einstein
Recently I was talking to a family member about getting my youngest
son his own computer. There were money and other practical
considerations. A particular choice was suggested about which I was
uncertain, and I was asked for my initial thoughts. I realized then
that I didn’t actually care what my first thoughts were; I
sensed the first ones out would be those I’d conceived before. Not
wanting to run on the hamster wheel of regular thought, I opted to
“sit with it.”
so I did. I sat with it, but this time I didn’t talk to it,
fuss over it, ask it questions, or try to solve it. My brain was
attentive but not busy. The next day, late in the afternoon, after a
series of related experiences and interactions unfolded, my son
himself declared, “I am not ready for my own computer!” This came
after almost a year of him demanding one. In one moment, without
grinding through my usual thoughts, trying repeatedly to reconfigure
them into something helpful, an irregular thought popped through –
and it popped through the best person. And the issue unexpectedly
Einstein’s Thought Experiments, in which he took a question
into the realm of imagination and allowed it to play out, he opened
the gateway to higher thinking, loosening his grip on his usual
thoughts and allowing new thought through.
Breakthrough or irregular thought is always available. It coexists
with regular thinking much like a neglected alternative route on a
map. We’re just so used to focusing on and traveling familiar
thought patterns, we hardly notice or trust the other.
Though the process of dialoguing can help open the door to
insight, I understand now that it isn’t the talking part that is
helpful; it is the listening. It is our attentive
passivity, an internal inactivity that enables higher
thinking to emerge. It is the fact that in the spaces between our
regular thoughts, we manage to wait - to stop crafting. And through
those cracks comes higher thinking and with it, a deeper feeling
relationship to life, to the world, to ourselves, and to our work.
More Author Articles...
Jennifer Paros is a writer,
illustrator, and author of
Violet Bing and the Grand House
(Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle.
Please visit her website at