“Hearing is the way to life…”
Thomas Aquinas

The five external senses are an astounding gift, with a uniquely rich role in life. And the action of each of them can stand for something even more profound than their primary usage. We speak of seeing, or of tasting, and we mean something that is like but deeper than what is actually done with eyes or tongue.

Hearing. What a thing to be able to do! There is so much to hear today: the wind in the new leaves, the twitter of birds, the bustle of people going about their business, the bark of dogs, the flow of water. And then there are the voices, and the words to which they give expression! There can so much meaning, so much richness in those words.

At times there can be too much to hear. Too many try to say something to us, or we open ourselves to the endless spout of distracting sounds. We can be bombarded and overwhelmed by what has turned to noise, and our hearing is impaired. Perhaps we can seek healing in the silence that is home to better hearing.

Then there are times we simply long to hear certain things, especially certain voices, that are not at hand to be heard—at least not with our ears, not now.

And then there are other kinds of voices, such as something calling from within us—something we know is real but cannot quite identify. Or something calling from outside us, from the natural world itself (especially in spring!), or from our fellow human persons, both those speaking out loud and those not. In what ways might each of the foregoing be itself the sounding of a yet deeper Voice, one that would feign be heard, if we would but attend?

Hearing is the way to life. Thomas Aquinas suggests that it is especially with our eyes that we discover things for ourselves. And it is with our ears that we learn things from others. The way to life, it seems, is through receiving from others. If I am ever really to see, I must first listen, and receive the gift of so much to be heard.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) is considered one of the greatest of medieval theologians and philosophers. This quote is from his commentary on the Book of Job.

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