Listening to a Friend

When I hear this andante espressivo, I am not listening to Brahms but to my friend listening to Brahms with me. That’s why the very first post of this blog is titled “Listening with a Friend.”

Brahms too was listening to his friends. The same listening disposition arises in the presence of my friend: when he and I talk, I am not listening to him but to what he and I are saying as friends – listening not to each other but to each other as “other self”/ἕτερος ἑαυτός. I give respectful and careful consideration to most people who talk to me. I take what they tell me seriously and become engaged with it. But between indispensable friends things work differently. Being close friends with a person means listening attentively, not to the other person as such but to the two of us speaking to each other as our “other self,” listening to the very utterance of our friendship. We listen not to what the friend is saying but to what is uttered between us.

“Listening to . . . is the existential being-open of Dasein as being-with for the other. Listening even constitutes the primary and authentic openness of Dasein for its ownmost possibility of being, as in hearing the voice of the friend whom every Dasein carries with it. Dasein hears because it understands. As understandingly being-in-the-world with others, Dasein ‘listens to’ [hörig] itself and to Dasein-with, and in this listening belongs [Hörigkeit zugehörig] to these” (Heidegger, Being and Time, tr. Stambaugh, p. 158).

If, as Heidegger says, every Dasein carries with it the voice of the friend, I carry with me the voice of Pantelis Polychronidis, my pianist self, who often pauses and tells me: “με αφουγκράζεσαι”! It’s a philosophical choice of word. The verb αφουγκράζομαι means “to listen with careful attention,” “to try to grasp/comprehend something not immediately accessible.” It comes from the composite verb ἐπακροῶμαι which means “to listen attentively.” Its second part, the verb ἀκροῶμαι, is the root of “harken,” which means “to give heed to what is said,” “to hear by listening.” The verb that Pantelis is using for my harkening when I listen to him, αφουγκράζoμαι, is a perfect definition of friendship as the existential openness to a self who is listening to being-with for you.

May 20, 2014

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