Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Inspiration of Owls and other Nocturnal Sounds

This post is dedicated to an owl, for had it not been for this owl, this post would never have been written.

I sat outside Tuesday night nursing a beer, enjoying the soothing silence of the midnight hour. Within minutes I noticed the silhouette of something up at the top of the pine tree in front of me, with the moonlight slightly reflecting off of it, but didn't quite know what it was at first, until I heard its distinctive "hoo hoo".

Yes, it was an owl. Then I got the idea to mimic it, to call back to it in my very best Sagittarian Owl voice, but it was either too good, or not good enough, because it must have startled it and caused it to fly away. Yes, this is what I do. Drinking beer and hooing like an owl after midnight. Ha ha. No, I haven't fallen off the deep end yet, but I very well may end up living under a bridge. Don't you just love my melodrama? And my propensity for both exaggeration and self-deprecation? If I keep this up, I may have to look for work at the National Enquirer.

Okay, moving on, back to the story.

The owl had a pretty good size wing span, though I didn't see it well enough to identify what type of owl it was. But it reminded me of the dream I had last year of being hunted and eaten alive by a bird. It was either a hawk or an owl, though in my dream it was much bigger than myself. Either it was a giant bird, or I was a miniature person. Owls are cool, but I'd hate to be eaten by one.

Anyways, hearing this owl was pretty much the highlight of the night. I can count on one hand the number of owls I've ever seen in my life. So it was quite the momentous occasion. Set the mood for the entire night, to be one of sustained concentrated listening. Not to star gaze like I usually do, and not even to really be absorbed in thinking about anything at all, but to just focus entirely on whatever I could hear, zooming in on it and following each sound for as long as possible. The more you listen, the more you actually hear. Your hearing actually improves to some extent with focused awareness.

So I resume drinking my beer, ever more conscious of the sounds of the night. A few minutes later, I hear a rustling in the bushes just a few feet away from me. What could it be? There was definitely something out there, something big. I'm thinking, maybe it could be a dog, or something bigger, maybe a bear or a mountain lion. It turned out to be pack of wild javelinas, a family of five. Pretty cool to see an owl and some javelinas on the same night. Doesn't happen too often, actually it was a first.

I listened to the javelinas meander away into the darkness of the night, cutting through my neighbors yards. It was pretty quiet outside. After midnight is pretty much the only quiet time around here. The day is loud. Too loud. Constant air traffic. Air force jets. Commercial airliners. Flight for life helicopters. Military helicopters. Cargo planes. Automobile traffic. Construction equipment. Loud voices. Too damn loud for me. That's the price you pay for living next to a busy highway, near a busy shopping center, and under a busy flight path. It's noisy all day long.

Things could be worse though. At least the nights are quiet. That I am very thankful for...but I really do want to get out of here. I feel like a forlorn sailor stranded on a desert island in the middle of an endless sea of sand, and running out of water FAST. Maybe I should start buying lottery tickets, like all the other desperate fools. I've had my fill of Arizona. In fact I think I may have had my fill of America. And no I'm not anti-American...I'm pro-paradise. Still looking for my Shangri-La.

But where to go, where to go? How about another planet? Seriously. Or how about a different time period altogether. Sometime in the distant future where ignorance and suffering has become extinct. Where there is no more war. No more crime. No more idiocy. No more greed. No more dishonesty. No more mindless destruction. Where everyone is operating on a higher octave of consciousness, smarter, kinder, juster, happier, healthier, wiser, and existing for the sole purpose of mutual evolutionary advancement...enlightenment for all.

Enlightenment for all? How about enlightenment for one. Better than none. I don't know if it is even possible to enlighten anyone other than yourself. You can say the wisest possible words, but if a person isn't ready to receive them, it won't do them the least bit of good.

See my post: The Lonely Road to Enlightenment.

Part 2 - The Art of Listening.

Listening is a skill that can be improved with practice. Concentrated listening is a form of concentrated awareness, where you focus all your attention on listening. Over time exercising your listening skills will not only improve your hearing, it will also help you become more attentive overall.

There are two major types of sounds: verbalized sounds associated with human language, and non-verbalized sounds, which may either be natural or man-made. Consequently there are also two main types of listening associated with these two types of sounds, each utilizing a different hemisphere of the brain. One is verbal, the other non-verbal. One is more logical, the other more intuitive.

Listening to someone talking, is much different than listening to non-verbalized sounds, because with speech you are not just listening to sounds, you are also processing ideas, making sense of intellectual abstractions, are actively engaged in interpreting the symbolic meanings of language. There's a lot of work involved in that. It's also easier to be distracted by people talking. Personally I find it next to impossible to concentrate on reading in an environment with a lot of talking going on, but I can tune out non-verbalized noises much easier.

In other words, since words are associated with very specific ideas, whenever you are listening to someone speak, you are listening more so to ideas, than sounds.

Whereas I have found that listening to natural non-verbalized sounds are more melodic, less-distracting, and actually engage that part of the brain that helps stimulate intuition, the ability to know directly beyond words.

It is therapeutic to take a break from sounds associated with human speech. To spend some time outside listening deeply to the non-verbalized sounds of the earth. Leaves rustling. The wind howling. The rain pouring. Water dripping. Fire burning. The sounds of birds, insects, and other animals. The sounds of footsteps. Walking. Chewing. Scratching. Digging.

It's interesting listening to these things. To listen to these sounds with undivided attention. Concentrated listening. Focused listening. Sustained awareness. A meditation on listening. The quieter it is outside the more you will hear. The more time you spend actively listening, the better your listening skills will become.

Personally I find the midnight hour to be an extremely valuable time for listening. Because depending on where you live, it is usually the time of day when man-made sounds are at their quietest, making it much easier to focus on other sounds you may not ordinarily hear.

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