Jesus quite famously once said, "Whoever has ears, let them hear." On the outside this seems pretty obvious. If you have ears, and haven't been struck with some physical condition, you will hear. But what if the emphasis were to shift from the ears to the whoever? Perhaps his statement then reads a bit like this, "Who has ears? and then, "Who is hearing?" Now we are in the realm of the koan, and Jesus' statement begins to look a bit more mysterious, carrying us more deeply into our lives.
Who is hearing?
Our senses tell us about the world, what it smells like, what it tastes like, our eyes bring color and form to our experience. We sense the beauty that is all around us. Our senses help us to locate ourselves -- I am here and my dog is on the bed across the room -- and with our senes we differentiate ourselves from the other. As my skin touches yours, I have a definite sense of myself as apart from you. But, hearing is different.
This morning I had coffee on a bench near my house. The neighborhood crows were waking up and they were calling to one another, in their own way greeting the day. As I used my eyes one crow started in one tree and flew into the next, calling out as she flew. With my eyes closed, there was just the call. From the sound alone it was difficult to locate the sound; outside or within? What is more, with outside and inside gone, who is hearing this sound?
As we are present to the moment, we discover what it is to hold our lives very close, intimately. Sometimes things seem so close that distinctions diminish as my certainty about things waivers. As the crows call, I find myself calling, Caw! Caw!
Who is hearing the sound? Whoever has ears, let them hear.