Half Hearing

Last week I broke one of my parents’ favorite rules:

Never stick anything smaller than your elbow in your ear.

It seemed harmless. After all, things were getting sticky in there, and what ill could a Q tip really do?

It turns out, a lot. I went too far, and my left ear has been ringing for days. I’ve been trying to drain it with rubbing alcohol to no avail; I still feel like I’m living in half a fishbowl.

This small change has impacted me more than I expected. When I enter the room and someone says my name, I don’t know who is talking to me. As I was walking home tonight, a biker was coming behind me, and I didn’t realize she had said, “On the left,” until it was almost too late. I have lost some of my appetite for conversation because it’s not as fun to talk when you can’t listen.

You may have seen my blog posts about the Shema, an ancient declaration that starts with an exhortation to listen–which is also to obey. After writing all about listening and obedience, I find it terribly ironic that my hearing is shaky because I didn’t heed my parents’ longstanding advice.

Today some of my coworkers and I were looking at a passage from the book of Isaiah, describing how the people who said the Shema every day failed to heed it. In the text the prophet is instructed to leave the people to their ignorance, saying,

“Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.”

Today I’ve been left to my ignorance, and let me tell you, it’s not bliss.

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