What will you see when you listen to this?

Ira Glass has said “audio is the most visual medium.”  He was referring to the ability of gifted storytellers to paint pictures in our minds using the intimacy of their voice as a brush and words that provide color and form.

Another way to interpret that phrase is the ability to help us hear something that changes the way we forever see the world.

Throughout most of my life, this largely happened via music. Gifted songwriters would keep me company in the solitude and sanctity of my rooms – whether they be in a row house, trailer park, college dorm or tiny apartments in big cities.

The lyrics from a group of artists ranging from Neil Diamond, Harry Chapin, Cat Stevens, Tracy Chapman, Indigo Girls, REM,  Pearl Jam and many others, shaped my world views on issues ranging from poverty, justice, family, love and life’s purpose.  

While listening to music continues to play a role in my reflective life, my audio time now includes listening to podcasts while walking my dog. They provide the unique opportunity to eaves drop on meaningful adult conversations – like a child overhearing their parents talk to their friends about life at the kitchen table.

Occasionally a turn of phrase will hit you in such a way to give you pause – serving as a useful frame for considering opportunities in your own life.  Consider these examples from three different podcasts discussing the challenges and importance of connecting with each other.

“How can I say this so we can stay in this car together?” 

“We’re in the same story, here.”

“Did you ever tell that teacher about the difference he made in your life?”

They make you want to lean in and learn more, right?  The last of these examples is from a podcast I was recently on, appropriately called Listeners. It is a show about “the craft and power of listening” whose hope is to share ideas that “can amplify the quality of our dialogue and interactions.”

The show’s intent underscores the power of audio to not just make us listen but to help us see – our world, each other, our purpose – in a clearer light.

Whether it’s music, podcasts, soundscapes or any other form of audio, I hope you to find some time today or this week, to steal away with your own thoughts and the voices of others. Who knows what you will see when you listen.

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