Listen Twice As Much As You Talk

Twenty-six years ago I sat on a hillside overlooking Jerusalem and listened to a man chant about the destruction of Jerusalem. It was Tisha B’Av and while my friends and I listened to him chant from Eicha I made a silent promise to myself that when I returned to the states it wouldn’t be for long. I felt as if destiny was calling out to me and all I had to do was answer.

Twenty-six years later I find myself in a very different position than the one that the sixteen year-old boy I once was expected me to be in.


It is not really a surprise to me to write those words because as a 42 year-old father I have the benefit of having lived and loved a little bit more than that boy. That boy wandered the streets of Jerusalem with his friends and swam in the Mediterranean with his first real girlfriend. He saw things and experienced pieces of a life that he wanted to live. That boy wasn’t sure how he would make it happen but he never doubted that one day he would live that life. Part of the benefit of being sixteen was that he wasn’t burdened by realistic expectations or concerns about things that could hold him back.

Life was there for him to live- provided that he was willing to go take it.

It feels a bit funny to write about myself like that but it is hard to put myself back in those shoes. It is not that I don’t remember because in many ways I do. There are pictures and letters that help to shore up the memories that lie between my ears and a thousand stories that have been told a million times. But so much has happened it is hard to really remember what I wanted beyond a few serious things and the superficial.

That 16 year-old would have been offended by this. He would have asked how I could forget being evacuated from a forest fire the day before we left the states and then talked about how the airline lost our luggage. He would have told that story about the six hour layover at Degaulle and the cab drivers who didn’t speak English. And even though he hated the Yankees he would have talked about meeting George Steinbrenner at JFK.


And then I would have told him that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason- listen twice as much as you talk.


The best part of moving is the way you discover lost treasures. Last week I found a six page essay that I wrote my freshman year of college. It was for English 101 and was titled “Why I Write.” My professor gave me an ‘A’ and left a comment on it that said that she thought that it was the best thing that I had written all year long.

I read it and remembered the 18 year-old who wrote it. Pieces of it sounded eerily similar to my life as it is now. It was a bit disconcerting to read those words and feel that sense of disappointment that maybe I haven’t done what I set out to do. I thought about it for a while and tried to figure out if I really thought that I had fallen short or if maybe destiny had come calling upon my door again.

There was a part of me that kind of liked the idea that maybe the carousel had finally completed the circle and it was time for me to try getting off of it again. It sounded a lot better than the idea that I had been taking a nap when opportunity knocked.  Or I thought that alternatively it might have been a case of me having to learn some sort of lesson before I could move on.


I can’t say whether it was any of those things or none of them and it doesn’t really matter. What matters to me is how I feel about my life now and the future that lies before me. There is much to say about that but since I am writing this late Sunday night I think that I’ll save those thoughts for later.

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  1. TheJackB July 26, 2011 at 7:45 am

    @marianne.worley It is amazing to me just how much we can change, especially when we look back and see how certain we were about some things.

    All part of the growing process I suppose.

  2. TheJackB July 26, 2011 at 7:44 am

    @mylifestylemax The wicked lip monster is a great description- I love that. I wasn’t any different in my youth- knew more/better than most. Age helps to temper some of that need to prove how smart we are.

  3. Faryna July 26, 2011 at 5:20 am

    @TheJackB I can seize the day every other day on a good week. [grin]

    While mapping the dead sea area around Qumran, I came across a cistern filled with ancient ceramics (whole pots and jugs- not fragments) and a dozen pit vipers. By my estimation, the ceramics dated from 1000 to 2000 years old. Enough to fill a truck. I decided at that moment to leave it for someone else to discover. Hopefully, someone who would be better served than the archaeologists I was working with.

    If I still had my hand drawn maps, I’d give them to you – so you wouldn’t have to move. But the treasure map is long lost. I’m sorry, Jack. I’ve moved so many times. So many things, lost to time.

  4. mylifestylemax July 26, 2011 at 4:38 am

    @ainsliehunter Love it…you gotta hand it to kids..they know how to set you straight, lol

  5. ainsliehunter July 26, 2011 at 12:41 am

    @mylifestylemax stop talking miss – i can’t tell you what I think if you are talking

  6. mylifestylemax July 26, 2011 at 12:16 am

    @ainsliehunter Hey Ainslie…which was ?

  7. ainsliehunter July 26, 2011 at 12:10 am

    @mylifestylemax I had some six year olds tell me the same thing today

  8. mylifestylemax July 26, 2011 at 12:07 am

    ‘Listen more than you talk’….Man…Jack…I could have saved myself a whole world of trouble, If I had understood this at a younger age,,but hey with age comes wisdom and understanding right? . I’m still fighting the demons in my mouth…some times I have to tame the wicked lip monster, lol. Listening is a skill and lost art form, something that humble people do with such ease,,,hmm..maybe I need to learn some humility too…yikess……..

  9. marianne.worley July 25, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    In the essay I wrote to get into college, I was completely confident that I would be the first female president of the United States. I don’t know who that person was, because that dream surely isn’t mine, at least not anymore. You’re right Jack–when you’re young you want your voice to be heard, but when you’re older, you realize that listening is more important and will get you farther in life.

  10. TheJackB July 25, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    @Billy_Delaney Hi Billy. I really like that opening line. I think that I have been very lucky at times and have been able to benefit from some good experiences. Some of my luck was created by me and some of it from others.

    And yes, it is fair to say that like you I have chosen the responsible path on more than one occasion. I suspect that this is part of what sometimes causes people like us to look back and wonder if maybe that other way might have turned out the way that we hoped that it would.

  11. TheJackB July 25, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    @AdrienneSmith Hi Adrienne. I wouldn’t say that I have no regrets because I do. I am happy to say that there are very few, but the ones that I do have are big.

    Overall I would agree that I tend to push through the obstacles that come up because that is how I was taught to live and that is what makes sense to me. I don’t really know how to just lie down and accept things that I don’t like.

    Life is a journey and all I ask is to try and enjoy it as best I can.

  12. Billy_Delaney July 25, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    The life well lived always looks back and wonders about paths not taken. The life not lived is afraid to look back because there among the wasted years lies the aspirations unfolded, un nurtured and neglected.Jack we only get the one go through. I think you went through this life with mucho gusto!

    I feel a kinship with you. I think I even understand you.

    I’m 56 this year and there are things that I would do but I choose to the responsible path at times when it was most necessary I bet you did too.


  13. AdrienneSmith July 25, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    It sounds to me that you don’t really have any regrets. I mean would you rather be back there then where you are now? You take me as the kind of guy that moves through life and embraces what is presented to him. There may be things you like or possibly not, but you face them, conquer them and move on. I would hope that you are very pleased with where you are today and can look back on all those memories as great experiences. I’m glad you are here, now, and sharing your thoughts and feelings with us. We are better for it.

  14. TheJackB July 25, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    @Faryna We are still young enough to seize the day too.

  15. Faryna July 25, 2011 at 11:39 am

    “Life was there for him to live- provided that he was willing to go take it.”

    If we could go back and do it again, Jack! But we can encourage the young and restless to seize their day.

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