Feeling Listless? Try Free Listening


Cherace Lin

Kip Clark sits outside of MIT’s Building 7 offering “Free Listening.”

Cherace Lin, Contributing Writer

Outside of MIT’s Building 7 at 77 Massachusetts Avenue sits podcaster, writer, and Somerville local Kip Clark, adorned with a sign displaying the words “Free Listening.” Since April 9th, 2019, when weather permits, Clark uses his time to listen to the people of Cambridge or whomever stops, whether it be to offer advice, engage in dialogue, or to simply lend an ear. Ultimately, he receives all sorts of reactions, and the Register Forum asked him to dissect the most memorable of his exchanges.

Register Forum (RF): What are the usual reactions you receive? What do they say? Who stops?

Kip Clark (KC): Respectful skepticism slash disbelief. A majority of people have given me the verbal equivalent of a raised eyebrow; let’s say that’s maybe 40% to 50% of people. Then you’ve got 20% to 30% that ask me questions … they’re probably very similar to the ones you will ask … then they politely say, ‘Okay, um, … have a nice day, Kip, was it?’ and leave, that’s it, while the remaining 20 to 30 percent talk about really whatever—relationship difficulties, imposter syndrome, family frustrations, personal doubt, and a sort of vagueness of figuring out what you want to do with your life. As for who stops … it really runs the gamut. I can’t speak to people’s gender identity or sexual orientation, but in other demographics; ethnicity is not a barrier, there are people of all ethic and racial backgrounds that have stopped, people of different ages, men and women, though as for folks who identify as non-binary I couldn’t speak to that.

RF: What’s one thing you’d want people to know about you and your sign?

KC: I feel emotionally prepared to hear truly whatever. That’s the main thing I would want people to know … that they could truly talk about anything.

RF: What are your best stories from the sign?

KC: [A first year MIT student] started at 11:30ish [PM], there had been a group of people prior and I went home at like 3:30 or 4:30 in the morning. As well as a conversation with an immigrant, I will never forget … one of her parting sentences was “It’s signs like yours and people like you that make me feel welcome in this country.” There have been some moments with this sign where I’m like “Yeah, I don’t want to do much else with my life, I don’t feel a huge need to do much else.” I’m very touched to have any kind of an impact on anyone.

RF: What was your motivation for the sign?

KC: It’s an opportunity to evacuate my heart of precious emotions and to share that with people that, in my perspective, 99 times out of 100 do not have an unconditional belief in themselves as human beings worthy of appreciation, praise, and time in the air that they breathe. I don’t think I can be the sole determinant of their confidence, but I would love to be a voice on that side of that line saying, “I hope you meet many people who care about you and would listen to you because I will happily be one.”

This piece also appears in our November 2021 print edition.