This lyric resonates with me like the gong at the end of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Not because it’s particularly profound or brimming with ambiguous genius. I think this song’s wordsmith had more insight into the human condition than many people I know. Like him, I’m amazed at how much verbage permeates the atmosphere, and how little actually gets processed - by anybody.
The opening questions, “Do you hear me, do you care?” aptly summarize the song’s overall theme, pervade the entire tune, and are both sadly answered with an unmistakable“no”. Dale Bozzio’s quirky, trendy (and sometimes squeaky) alto alternates between playful frolic and poignant reality, like a cyborg with a bounce. Her voice marries whim with cynicism, animation with automation. It’s what makes the awful truth go down easier. When she sings
My lips are moving and the sound`s coming out
The words are audible but I have my doubts
That you realize what has been said
she acknowledges that even though there is a noise, it doesn’t mean there is a sound. Just because a message has been sent doesn’t guarantee that it’s been received. This notion is summed up at the end of the first verse:
It`s like the feeling at the end of the page
When you realize
You don`t know what you just read
How many times do you have to read something before it truly sinks in? It’s the same thing with true communication. We all know how frustrating it is to try to converse with someone who is merely waiting for you to stop talking so she can get her two cents in. The best conversationalists, it is said, are those that talk to you about yourself, and then wait for your reply. Stephen Covey advises us to “seek first to understand, and THEN be understood.” No wonder Bozzio broods away:
What are words for when no one listens anymore
What are words for when no one listens
There`s no use talking at all...
I might as well go up and talk to a wall
Cause all the words are having no effect at all
The art of listening is a lost art, indeed. As a recovering psych major, the one takeaway that became a staple in my counseling model was the virtue of active listening. Arguably, the best thing you can do for a distraught individual is to simply keep your mouth shut and let him vent. No advice. No quick fix or solutions. You essentially repeat and interpret what the client says for clarity’s sake (referred to as “mirroring”). More often than not, the person correctly draws her own conclusion simply by hearing herself speak. As a facilitator, you don’t cause the “a-ha” moment, you’re just there when it happens. Voila! Problem solved. And all you did was pay attention.
Pursue it any further
And another thing you`ll find
Not only are they deaf and dumb
They could be going blind
No one notices. I think I`ll dye my hair blue
A penetrating insight here. Once you stop listening, your other senses follow domino-like suit. Pretty soon you become numb and de-sensitized to the point that practically nothing impresses you or tickles your fancy. No wonder hordes of our contemporaries cut, pierce, tattoo, and otherwise italicize themselves in a futile effort to gain notoriety, or, at least, avoid being ignored. Self-expression? Or a silent plea to the oblivious masses. “Look at me!” Picture Stanley Kowalski yelling THAT in the rain instead of “Stella!”
Someone answer me before I pull out the plug
The singer resigns herself to drastic measures on this last line. Either validate my cry or I bail. From people, life, or both. Wow. I mean, think about this: pulling out the plug could imply that her life, as is, languishes in a vegetative state, that she is existing on a figurative respirator. Her miracle could easily be manifested if some Horton would lend her an ear and just accede her actuality. After all, a person’s a person, no matter how small.
The problem lies not in the volume of available verbosity out there. You see, words are like inflated dollars - the more that are circulated, the less value they hold. If we would only learn to, as the Hee Haw girls used to admonish, listen close the first time, the singer of “Words” would not have to waste so much time trying to get noticed. As followers of Christ, we would be wise to take that first meltdown seriously, and keep an eye out for the silent and deep melancholies among us. Who knows what future tragedy we may fend off, and what lives we may save if we decide to care enough to not only hear, but to care, and to actively listen.
To understand is better than to be understood. Sometimes we have to put our own neuroses on hold so someone who hurts a little more can catch a break. Not to worry - the One who causes everything to work out for our good and His glory will do just that, nothing less.
Listen actively to someone today. Mind not that you’re being talked over and your own feelings are disregarded at the time - the cycle is true, and the right person will zero in on you in due season. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart bring glory to the Master. And may I minister grace and help to the one whose words desperately need a listening ear.