“Passivity is not enough, even if it’s very attentive.”

The Russian polymath Mikhail Bakhtin, one of the titanic minds of the twentieth century, though too neglected now, believed that in a dialogue the position of primacy is with the person who listens rather than the one who first speaks. After all, he said, we do not speak unless we anticipate a response; and we shape what we say in light of possible reactions. If the listener, even if only an imagined listener or our own image of our Self, were not there, we might not speak at all, and if we did we would speak very differently than in fact we do. In Bakhtin’s account, this situation means that the listeners and readers owe a response to speakers and writers. Passivity is not enough, even if it’s very attentive.

— via The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction