DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
Of course, many of you have not heard of Sara Mosher. You do not have the slightest idea of who she is. Nevertheless, you are probably interested in knowing how anyone can gain an intimate knowledge of other people, even of complete strangers, in a short period of time.
Who is Sara Mosher? She is a woman I encountered on one of the electronic magazine web sites that provides anyone who wants to write with a virtual writer’s community. Those sites now enjoy growing popularity due to the accelerated decline of the art of personal conversation in our society, which favors remote, impersonal means of communication. Ironically, it is the very absence of adequate personal relations that attracts many people to the remote means of communication alienating them.
Be that as it may, the virtual community of writers on several of the latest electronic magazine sites can now communicate with each other by means of a comment facility or “box” provided at the end of each article, or by an email facility. That is how Sara Mosher appeared in my life, in the form of comments appended to several of my almost insufferable existential tracts I had published on an ezine site. I lamented in those tracts that only one person read my work, my alter ego. Sara commented that I now had two readers. Thus rendered curious, I looked her name up on the site I read her posted profile and a few of her articles. She lives in Canada, I found out, and is a competitive speaker by virtue of the Toastmasters’ organization. Her articles are usually inspirational; however, she is not one of those “positive mental attitude” fanatics: she has her down-side, and she is willing to show it if she thinks it might do some good: it is good to know inspired people are human beings!
One thing that I immediately noticed about Sara is that she has an knack for sizing people up accurately with a few choice words, as if she has an acute insight into what makes people tick. At first I thought her ability was uncanny, or due to woman’s intuition, so to speak, since we do not call it witchcraft any more. But, on second thought, after I had observed her “operations” for awhile, I discovered her secret, a secret operation that can be employed regardless of gender or occult inclination– although women, in order to survive in a man’s world, have cultivated it more than men.
Sara Mosher listens.
Not only does Sara write, she roams far and wide to read other writer’s works, always hoping to find another good author to study. She is not a “scanner” or a “surfer” with a short attention span who is always anxious to proceed to the next click no matter where she is at present. She does not preoccupy herself with trash, but she does actually read the articles that interest her, going so far as to print them out and review them several times if need be. It is no wonder she knows what is going on with people.
But of course! Sara is a speaker. She must therefore be, first and foremost, a listener. How does one learn to speak except by listening? And when speakers speak publicly in debate, or engage in mutual criticism to perfect their art, they had better listen very intently to what other people are saying, or they are going to make fools of themselves and lose every argument.
Furthermore, to be excellent speakers, each speaker must find and listen carefully to the best speaker around and do so at length. Only an imbecile would run around from worse to worst. Without developing a good ear by that means, no one will be able to speak well. The conditions to hear a good speech must be there for it to be heard as such.
The same can be said about reading and writing. One must be able to read well in order to write well. But speaking has the advantage of spontaneity and of immediate feedback in forms that are not apparent in writing, hence a speaker can work his audience to better advantage.
Now that we are all writers with equal access to unedited and immediate publication in an electronic magazine, sometimes it seems that very little serious reading or listening occurs. When I first read the comments to my own articles, it was apparent that many of them did not even appertain to what I had said. My articles had not even been read, or only one or two sentences here or there had been hurriedly scanned: one commentator even said, “I have scanned the first part of your article, and I must say that you are wrong, and you should…etc.”
I also received extensive critical comments from people who obviously had no education in critical theory, but were simply parroting things they had heard in school. I realized many of the writers had come to my articles not to read them but just to write something, perhaps having nothing worthwhile to develop on their own pages. Of course, since writers on the open ezine sites are paid for “hits”, many are just out hustling business, leaving their signatures, commenting “wonderful”, “great”, “excellent”, “good job”, everywhere they go, hoping to draw hits their way. As if a real author would go about reading other people’s books to get them to read his own!
What seems to be going on with the new electronic magazines is everyone is writing at the same time and only a few people like Sara Mosher are really reading. Everyone is shouting for attention and nobody is listening. Nobody really cares about content quality, and some people could care even less whether they are heard or not as long as they get plenty of hits.
People are given two ears to listen and only one mouth to talk, yet too many of us spend more time talking than listening. Hence we are confronted with noise, with everyone trying to shout and write every else down, until some fanatic shouts the loudest and the others follow him right down the drain–yet again.
Yes, down the drain, a dangerous and unnatural course indeed. A hundred people can hear one speaker but one person cannot hear a hundred speakers. Nature gives priority to listening before speaking, and listening well. Listening to what is most important is urgent, is a matter of life and death in the long run. Yet in our vanity more of us want to speak than to listen, to write than to read, until nobody is heard or read, much to their own detriment and to that of our cultures and civilizations.
That very tendency to social disaster is why the appearance of a perspicacious Canadian woman named Sara Mosher inspired me with hope. Imagine that! Someone who actually listens! She lets you know she is listening by quoting you back and by admiring your strongest points. And sometimes she just listens, period. What a wonderful relief that is.
Ah, but blabbermouth that I am, I’m afraid I’ve given away Sara’s secret to everyone who happens to be listening. And that is why I would not last long in the cosa nostra.
The Ozone 2000