‘Inclining the ear of the heart…’

‘Listen carefully, my son, to the teachings of a master and incline the ear of your heart.’ So begins the Prologue of St. Benedict’s Rule.

How carefully must one listen to incline the ear of the heart. To what? To the teachings. Of whom? Of the master whose words come from elsewhere, the teachings he imparts. But why him? What makes him a master? Why these teachings? Too soon, young man: first there is submission, the humbling to the humble one, the bowing of the tongue, the inclining of the ear. After, there is questioning yet not with the lavishing tongue but with the speaking ear.

(Doubting too early is a child dragging his heels. Do not be a child. In the beginning is ‘obtuse devotion’ (Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery.))

‘Listen carefully to the teachings of the master and incline the ear of your heart.’ I listen and incline. ‘Become listening and inclining.’ Listening and inclining, the heart becoming ear.