The last tree
Writing in Esquire magazine in 1935, Ernest Hemingway offered this advice to young writers: ‘When people talk, listen completely… Most people never listen.’ Even though Hemingway was one of my teenage heroes, the realisation crept up on me, somewhere around the age of 25: I am most people. I never listen.
Perhaps never was a little strong – but certainly my listening often occurred through a fog of distraction and self-regard. On my worst days, this could make me a shallow, solipsistic presence. Haltingly, I began to try to reach inside my own mental machinery, marshal my attention differently, listen better. I wasn’t sure what I was doing; but I had crossed paths with a few people who, as a habit, gave others their full attention – and it was powerful. It felt rare, it felt real; I wanted them around.