It is one of those tiresome truths, taught you at your mother’s knee, that you really ought to try harder to be a Good Listener. Most people, the assumption was when I was growing up, wanted to talk all the time, and a Good Listener was the rare and worthy fellow who restrained this impulse for the sake of others. Therefore it always seemed to me a quirk of my own that I liked listening better than talking, and for years I would congratulate myself on this evidence of my congenital moral superiority. Whatever else you could say about me, at least I was a Good Listener.

I now think that this must have been a more common feeling than I knew among those of us who grew up as the first television generation. The age of the couch potato has been ushered in by the demographic bulge of those whose watching and listening skills were if anything too finely honed. For the virtues of our passivity seem to me now to have reached a natural limit...


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