feeling, understanding, knowing: listening


The organic adherence by which
feeling-passion becomes understanding, therefore knowledge.

These words in Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks hit me today as an epiphany of learning and as foremost keys into listening. To listen is to grasp a deeper sense of place, of self, of stories. In Italian the verb comprendere, to understand comes from Latin and means to embrace. It is expansive, not normative. It embraces diversity. Sapere, to know comes instead from a verb that means to have a taste of, to catch a flavour. And sentire in Italian means both to feel and to listen.

Gramsci’s claim for a shift from knowing to understanding, to feeling, and back, from feeling to understanding, to knowing encompasses the expanding function of listening: from having a taste of something to embracing it – ultimately, to knowing it.

— just like the double shift from light and sound into understanding and backwards, in the slow pace of certain verses written by Pier Paolo Pasolini in a collection of poems entitled The Ashes of Gramsci:

That slow pace
which invaded the depths of my soul
when I truly loved, when
I truly wanted to understand.
And, as then, they disappear, singing.
[…]
In the abandoned flame of the morning’s
burning sun […]
desperate
vibrations scrape the silence […]

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