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On Listening to the Genuine

Francisco Burgos, Executive Director

A few weeks ago, I was conversing with a friend about the need for learning and practicing how to listen in our society. Listening not as a mechanical process but as a practice of opening, both to self and others. But, how to exercise listening when we are constantly perceiving, portraying, or defining ourselves as very distant from each other? How to start listening when we do not necessarily know how to be attentive to the most intimate “voice” within us? How to act with integrity when we are missing the opportunity to pause, to open our hearts, and to embrace the truth in our life, in the lives of others, and within our living and shared history?

As I wrestle with these questions, I think about how we at Pendle Hill are creating space for mutual accompaniment as we support people in their own renewal, healing, and discerning process. We know that this process requires being willing to welcome silence, difficult conversations, uncertainties, and exploring with love the many paradoxes we encounter in life.

Today, there are many distractions that prevent us from doing this essential exploration. We are so immersed in our own “devices,” ideas, and routines that we end up not noticing or accepting the challenges and beauty of co-creating a better life. It is as if by our lack of attention, we blind ourselves to what Howard Thurman described as “the sound of the genuine.” A soft but firm sound that calls for the best of us, giving us purpose, guiding and sustaining us in recognizing the dignity, goodness, and humanity in ourselves and others. It is a still voice that is present in life as it is life in itself – a small and constant voice that call us to be whole and which supports us in overcoming the many barriers that divide us. As Thurman says:

If I hear the sound of the genuine in me, and if you hear the sound of the genuine in you, it is possible for me to go down in me and come up in you. So that when I look at myself through your eyes having made that pilgrimage, I see in me what you see in me and the wall that separates and divides will disappear, and we will become one because the sound of the genuine makes the same music.”1

As we enter into the Spring season, I invite you to keep walking this journey with us. Let’s support one another in listening to the sound of the genuine with the hope that together we envision, work, and create the symphony of life with its beauty and solidarity.

In Friendship,


Francisco Burgos
Executive Director

1 From Howard Thurman’s 1980 commencement address at Spelman College. Available at