We live in a world absolutely choking with methods for communication: social media, print media, television and streaming services, advertising in every conceivable space, and the ubiquitous cellphone virtually glued to nearly every human hand. Whether all this “communication” is positive is another question.

In a typical Jon Stewart rant on a recent “Daily Show” about cancel culture and fears of being silenced by one’s ideological opponents, he said, “We are not censored or silenced. We are surrounded by and inundated with more speech than has ever existed in the history of communication. And it is all weaponized by professional outrage hunters of all stripes.”

What we don’t have, with apologies to the captain in “Cool Hand Luke,” is a failure to communicate. What we do have is a failure to listen. And this failure to listen is what fuels not only our political polarization, but also our alienation from one another, from our physical world, from ourselves.

In his 2022 message for the World Day of Communications, Pope Francis called on us to “listen with the ear of the heart.”

“We are losing the ability to listen to those in front of us, both in the normal course of everyday relationships and when debating the most important issues of civil life,” the pope warned.

“Listening is therefore the first indispensable ingredient of dialogue and good communication,” the pope told communicators, but it is a message that applies to all of us. In the current political season, but in fact for years now, opponents on our national ideological divides both bemoan that they are not being heard while at the same time not listening to one another, certainly not listening with the “ear of the heart.”

Father Robert Aaron Wessman in his book “The Church’s Mission in a Polarized World” (New City Press, $19.47) urges Christians to take on “the discipleship of crossing over” to “the other” as a means of healing polarization. “When one chooses to encounter the other, the likelihood of seeing the person who espouses the idea, and not just the idea that one disagrees with, becomes more likely.”

Such crossing over demands one listen with the ear of the heart. Otherwise, it’s just two people yelling at each other. This is hard work, and risky, Father Wessman notes, yet indispensable.

Learning to listen extends far beyond our political divides, however. Christian McEwen has written a poetic and profound book titled “In Praise of Listening” (Bauhan Publishing, $22). McEwen weaves together a vast amount of literary and spiritual sources, science, and personal stories to challenge us to listen to our world, one another and ourselves with more depth and precision.

Listening, she argues, is a way of being present. It is what we long for, yet what we so often lack, distracted by all the media around us, all that noise that pretends to be communication. “All too soon, not listening to other people becomes not listening to the larger world, and ultimately not even to ourselves,” she warns.

In a beautiful chapter titled “The Beloved Voice,” McEwen says, “Hearing is the first sense to develop in the human fetus, as it is the last to depart the dying body.” It is the mother’s voice that is first heard by the unborn child, and this voice becomes a lodestone for the infant. “The vocal nourishment that the mother provides … is just as important to the child’s development as her milk,” she quotes one expert as saying.

For all of us, McEwen argues, being heard is what we hunger for. It is so obvious, yet today we seem constantly to need to learn this anew. It is striking that when many survivors of abuse are asked what they want of the Church, so often it is to be heard. To hear is to recognize, to acknowledge.

McEwen’s book is an aural and soulful exploration of our world, contemplating the importance of listening to the world around us — plants and animals, even trees and moss! — as well as to our fellows and ourselves. While McEwen’s style would be best described as “spiritual but not religious,” one senses she is tapping into the wisdom of monks and sages, but also the wise women and men today who know the art of listening.

In a chapter titled “The little sounds of every day,” she quotes a cook, Alice Cozzolino, who talks about listening and focus as a part of her craft. We moderns suffer from “the addiction to the instantaneous,” but Cozzolino says, “that’s the antithesis of listening. Listening requires us to take a breath. It requires us to pause.”

McEwen ends her book with a simple quote by Brenda Ueland: “Listening is love.” It is what every spouse knows, what every child knows, what Pope Francis knows. It is what our world needs to learn once again.