If the writer of Ecclesiastes were to write today, he would not merely say that everything is meaningless; it's also senseless. Because we're living in an age where we use our senses more than ever, but they mean so very little.
Today, what do you hear?
We hear what we want to hear. We can hear a tiny piece of technology vibrate from three rooms away, but we can't hear how important our friend's question is to them. Like little children, we can hear someone opening the candy wrapper, but we can't hear them screaming our name for the umpteenth time. We can hear people say this or that key word and then...nothing else.
Because we live in a place where we hear what we want to hear and tune out the rest.
Take for example some of the debates raging around us right now. People aren't listening for reason or logic or even confession; they are listening for key words - Christian, Muslim, gay, straight, equality, tolerance, women, men, rights, privileges - whatever they're listening for, and that's enough. They listen long enough to figure out, by their understanding, what you are, and from there, they decide if they're listening or not. No matter what you say.
There are some issues and some people - probably many issues and many people - that you will never be heard speaking into, no matter how much love, how much grace, how much wisdom, how much strength, you bring to the conversation. No matter how many bridges you're trying to build. No matter how many gaps you're trying to cross. No matter how much peace you're trying to foster. This world only hears what it wants to hear, and you're just growing blue in the face.
But as much as we are not being heard, neither are we hearing. We are just as guilty as the rest of the world in not listening to the voices of those around us, including the voice of God. We're so frustrated by not being heard that what we're listening for more than anything else...is a chance to speak. We're listening only for the opportunity to respond. We're listening, trying to find that invitation to share our opinion. We're listening so that we can reframe our words in the relevant language and maybe be heard.
This is the biggest struggle we face with one another, in all our relationships - we are all just people wanting to be heard, and people hearing what we want to hear.
When was the last time you took a few minutes to really listen? To anyone? To anything? When was the last time you let another voice speak into your heart?
When was the last time you caught that catch in your friend's voice when she told you everything was ok? When was the last time you heard the weariness in your brother's voice as he recounted another day in his trying life? When was the last time you hear the fear behind the question, the hope behind the dream, the ache behind the prayer? When was the last time you really listened to someone else?
And let me ask you this: when was the last time you really listened to yourself? Have you heard your voice catch in that same telling way? Have you heard your weariness, your fear, your hope, your ache lately?
And what about God? Have you heard Him whisper? Can you hear Him speaking to you?
We hear what we want to hear. And that's part of the problem. We listen only for the meaningless things. We hear a phone that's vibrating three rooms away, but we don't listen to the heart when it speaks - ours, our friends', or our God's. It's senseless.
All this hearing, and no listening. It's just...senseless.