I've been talking to myself a lot lately. I don't know what that's about, but my mother was the same way. She hated to make small talk with other people, but get her into a conversation with herself and she was quite the raconteur. She would tell herself a joke and clap her hands together as she let out a laugh; she would murmur to the plants as she watered them, and offer encouragement to the food as she cooked it. Sometimes I would walk into a room and surprise her as she was regaling herself with some delightful story, and I remember how the sound would dry up in her mouth. She stood there, frozen in the headlights of my teenage scorn.
People don't talk like this, theytalklikethis. Syllables, words, sentences run together like a watercolor left in the rain. To understand what anyone is saying to us we must separate these noises into words and the words into sentences so that we might in our turn issue a stream of mixed sounds in response. If what we say is suitably apt and amusing, the listener will show his delight by emitting a series of uncontrolled high-pitched noises, accompanied by sharp intakes of breath of the sort normally associated with a seizure or heart failure. And by these means we converse. Talking, when you think about it, is a very strange business indeed.
People love to talk but hate to listen. Listening is not merely not talking, though even that is beyond most of our powers; it means taking a vigorous, human interest in what is being told us. You can listen like a blank wall or like a splendid auditorium where every sound comes back fuller and richer.