What The Bleep Is The Secret?

One person presents/reads/speaks uninterrupted for up to twenty minutes on any topic of their choosing. Up to thirteen other people listen while they eat dinner. (We do spaghetti). Then those thirteen folks (even the women) each take a turn at responding–also uninterrupted–for up to ten minutes. Then we break for dessert. Then the speaker gets a ten minute follow-up window, after which the others get their own up-to-five minute responses. That’s the Mark Twain Listening Club.

With the enthusiasm of some friends, I began the Mark Twain Listening Club (MTLC) over two years ago. We meet twice a month (give or take) and while talking for twenty minutes or ten minutes seems daunting, it does not take much thought to realize that it isn’t about talking, but listening. You share for up to ten minutes and listen for one hundred thirty. Now, what, I wonder, do you suppose happens when people listen to each other? I’ll tell you. Empathy. Understanding. Fun. Friendship. And witty witticism’s.

Last dinner a friend wanted to talk about manifesting reality. She had recently watched What The Bleep Do We Know? She loved the ideas presented within that film but was a bit nervous that she would be ostracized for misunderstanding them or oversimplifying them. But when one of her conclusions or take-aways or bottoms lines was “Consequently, if I’m manifesting my reality, and for example trying to make a new friend, then I don’t have to focus on their negative qualities. Instead, I can choose to direct my attention towards the positive qualities,” you can’t help but want to be closer to someone with such heart. Even her husband, the scientist, couldn’t find fault with the argument.

Naturally, the phenomenon known as The Secret, not to mention a certain more ancient book, was introduced during the pursuant discussion. While it is impossible to recreate the power of the moment, when one friend had his turn and asked, “What the bleep is the secret?”, I couldn’t help but think that there is no social setting that fosters such simple creativity than table dinners of this nature.

You know what the neatest thing about the Mark Twain Listening Club dinners is? I chose the goofy name to pay tribute to Mark Twain because I got the idea from his autobiography (and women attendees weren’t allowed to speak in his day). But about a year into it, someone pointed out the acronym could also be “More Tender Loving Care.”




  1. Francesca Smith

    That sounds like a great idea. Although the thought of talking non-stop for ten minutes is rather daunting, but if it is an intelligent and thought provoking topic, then why not?
    That is true about choosing to focus on an individual’s positive qualities rather than the negative ones, for everyone has a choice on whether or not to do so (it is not pre-determined).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Natalie Varela

    Makes me think of that quote, “The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply.” Popped into my head when I read this. Also, The Dead Poet’s Society. I like the idea of sitting quietly and really listening to someone. I even find myself being guilty of not truly listening sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lucy Furr

    Wow! What a great idea Pete. Love the name, the acronym too. Love the whole concept really. If I lived in Colorado I’d be begging to be part of it. I might have to steal your idea, giving you credit for it, of course, here in Utah. Great post today. Kudos.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Joanne Corey

    Listening as a skill has been underrated for far too long. Several years ago, a spirituality discussion group at my church to which I belong did some work with a series called “Bridges to Contemplative Living” using the works of Thomas Merton paired with other spiritual teachers. We entered into a practice called contemplative dialogue, in which one listens to each person speak from her own experience without interrupting, judging, or thinking about what you yourself want to say. When the person has finished her point, another may ask for clarification or for further depth from the speaker, but may not counter or argue, as each person is to speak from her own experience only. We all found that using this practice made us much more attentive listeners in other situations as well, and we review the principles of contemplative dialogue from time to time to help us in our group and in the rest of our lives.

    Liked by 1 person

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