A story: Back in the 3rd century A.D., King Ts’ao sent his son, Prince T’ai to study under the great master Pan Ku at his temple to learn the art of being a good ruler. Pan Ku sent the young boy alone to the Ming-Li Forest. After a year, the prince was to return and describe the sounds of the forest. The year passed and Pan Ku asked him to describe all he had heard. The prince told him he could hear the cuckoos sing, the crickets chirp, the leaves rustle, the bees buzz, and the wind whisper. The master told him to return to the forest and listen for more.
For long days and nights on end, the prince sat alone in the forest listening, but heard only the sounds he’d heard before. Then one morning as he sat silently beneath the trees, he discovered faint sounds unlike any others. He returned to the temple and told Pan Ku, “Master, when I listened most closely, I could hear the unheard — the sound of flowers opening, the sound of the sun warming the earth, and the sound of the grass drinking the morning dew.”
The master nodded. “To hear the unheard is a necessary discipline to be a good ruler. For only when a ruler has learned to listen closely to the people’s hearts, hearing their feelings uncommunicated, pains unexpressed, and complaints not spoken of, can he hope to inspire confidence in his people, understand when something is wrong, and meet the true needs of his citizens.”
Not only is this a story about true leadership, to me, it’s also about writing. As writers, we too, need to listen closely so we can hear “the unheard” and express it in our writing. Beneath all the chatter, the distractions, the humming of our busy minds, there is silence. And its from that silence that the most wonderful, joyful, magical ideas spring.
So let’s listen for the unheard and share it as we all write on!