Sunday, July 7, 2013

Listening for wisdom

"If the bold and aggressive generally prevail," writes Susan Cain in Quiet, "why were the sensitive not selected out of the human population thousands of years ago, like tree frogs colored orange?"  Because, it seems, for evolution to progress, we need both loud and quiet voices. The fact is that animal groups of all kinds depend on their sensitive members for survival. 

Herds of animals, for example, that have a few members who are constantly stopping their grazing to use their keen sensors to watch for predators, are more likely to survive to breed again, and so continue to have some sensitive individuals in every generation: in fact, scientists have discovered that approximately 20 percent of the members of every species fall into the observant-versus-aggressive category.

In short, each of us, whether quiet or loud, has something to offer the world. And how ever much we need the active and aggressive members of the species to defend turf and keep the food pouring in, we also need the quiet observers to preserve the tribe for the future.  Every voice stifled or out shouted can be an opportunity lost or knowledge and wisdom never heard or shared. Just as each experience, whether pleasant or wracked with pain, has something to teach us, every voice may have wisdom of value.  It's time we learned to listen more intently to one another.

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