On the occasion of the 6th Northern Lights Nordic-Baltic Film Festival - LISTEN AND HEAR.
Have you ever thought how often we listen without hearing? We are so obsessed with our personal fears, pain, strong beliefs and assumptions that we just can no longer comprehend what another human being, an animal, or a tree feels…
Even when someone is screaming, we are reluctant to hear them. Most often, because of our ego. We can’t hear when someone calls for compassion and help; when our planet calls for help; when women who suffer from physical, sexual or psychological violence call for help; we can’t hear a depressed person and get scared of someone on the verge of suicide…
How often do you really hear when you listen? To hear is quite a rare skill, as amid the buzzing fast-paced life we can hardly find time, energy or resources to hear for real. Maybe that’s why it can be hard to find empathy and compassion when people don’t hear themselves, their loved ones, their surroundings, their nature – to show compassion and give a helping hand becomes almost an unattainable task. However, it is the listening and the hearing that can save us. Whomever it is that the bell is tolling for, it is tolling for each of us, since we are one.
It happens, though, that when we do hear, we choose to judge, to run away, to hide.
These are all plain mechanisms of psychological self-defense, the survival mechanisms of the human psyche. At times it is very difficult to get through them. In some cases, it is impossible altogether. Our ego will always fight to defend us, leaving others to cope on their own. This leads to indifference, the lack of empathy, victim blaming. This makes people say – the war in Syria is not our business, Australian bushfires are a distant dark fairy tale, Greta Thunberg is an awkward child who is worthy only of a few laughs. That’s why when activists are calling us out to ‘do something’ because the planet is dying, we can only feel sort of discomfort and irritation. What can we, individually, do? The answer is, at least something good that is within our reach. This is in itself a big deal.
It is even more difficult for someone who was heard to hear back and open their heart instead of reveling in blaming. Sometimes it is hard to show those very empathy and care, which are so much discussed in the twenty-first century – a pretty narcissistic time – and which are so scarce. We are all interconnected, the bell is tolling for all of us, and no one is ever fully aware of what another person is going through – that’s why every day we need to show kindness, care, understanding and support to our loved ones, friends, colleagues, strangers, nature, animals.
Violence begets violence. The energy of kindness and non-violent behavior begets kindness and love. Sometimes it takes just a smile, sometimes – not taking a plastic bag at a supermarket, sometimes – to respond to trust with more trust, and sometimes – just to open your heart. It’s important not only to listen but to hear – to let it into your heart, to show understanding, not to be afraid of expressing love thinking it’s just a sign of weakness.
The human is a clever, conscious being. We all have a choice, even though many of us living in the post-Soviet territory tend to have a different mentality. We all have a choice, we can choose indeed: to hear and to open our heart, to help others, to give our time, to let someone receive help.
LISTEN AND HEAR – it is also about ourselves, about us needing to hear ourselves and let go of the fear of being ourselves. To express ourselves and to hear ourselves stands for self-love and self-acceptance. This and only this is the starting point of learning to hear others. A human is a complex creature. That’s why sometimes it is not easy to love and respect people. We learn to do it every day through sympathy, giving, care. We learn to listen and hear each other, hear our nature.
What do we hear?
When I was a child, mom once asked me, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ I said, I want to be a peacemaker. I imagined myself on TV, telling all the people around the world how important it is to love each other and not to wage war. In a way, everything I do now is about that. It is about feeling deep and showing kindness and empathy. Perhaps I have a somewhat childish naive belief that these are key qualities. When people adhere to them, there can be no war, no humiliation, no violence, no abuse of the planet.
The Northern Lights is like a peacemaker this year. It proposes to ‘cease fire’, to stop even if for the festival week, to find some time, to pay close attention, and to listen. Listen to stories about women’s rights and campaigns against domestic violence, about horrific consequences of psychological, emotional, sexual, physical and financial violence, about the ecological disaster and climate change, about the disappearance of entire ecosystems, about record-breaking CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, about the recycling and remanufacturing mentality, about patriarchy. And, above everything, in spite of everything, about love and beauty.
Listen to this, try to hear, leave your comfort zone, get off this spinning wheel of stress and deadlines and just listen, feel, hear. There is as much kindness and love in the world as we can imagine. And we always have a choice of what to think and how to feel.
Founder and director
of the Northern Lights Film Festival
Translated from Belarusian by Darya Yafimava