Saturday, November 1, 2014

First Hearings

I am fascinated by the concept of first hearing.  Maybe the fascination began with Hannah Arendt's essays in the New Yorker back in the 70's when, in covering the Eichmann trials, she acknowledged that nothing in her training had prepared her to discern truth or falsehood solely on the basis of what she was hearing.  In other words, nothing prepared her to account for tone of voice.

This observation prompted her to observe that the Jews knew there was a God because they heard his voice.  Think about it: it is amazing.

References to this line of thought were expunged by Arendt's friend and posthumous editor, Mary McCarthy in The Life of the Mind, a collection of Arendt's essays.  But they were there in the originals and they have haunted me ever since as they are so revealing of the difference between first hearing and go-away-don't-bother-me I've already heard that kind of hearing, so typical of our daily lives that we don't even notice it.