By Tammy T. Stone
Why do we speak and write?
What is it that drives us as we bring pen to page, finger to keyboard, voice to the world?
What do we have to say, and why do we need others to hear it?
What is the sanity, the clarity, the beauty of marking our lives with scribbles and sounds; these visual and tonal hieroglyphics imprinted in space and time?
We’re certainly unique creatures, us humans, in how we’ve evolved to create such elaborate symbol systems in order to express ourselves and communicate with each other—in other words, to leave the bubbled solitude of selfhood behind.
Or has the arising of language been a crucial part in the very idea of selfhood to begin with, for better and for worse?
We are a species that likes to talk, to write, to communicate and to share, but sometimes it feels like our efforts in these areas are not bearing fruit, maybe because we’ve lost the solitude, the silence part of the equation in a sea of memes, selfies and commentary.
We have our stories, our personal meanderings through the parts of the world we inhabit, with all the joys and struggles that life contains, doles out and manifests through us.
We may not be our stories or be wholly defined by them, but psychologically, they go a long way toward forming a large chunk of the package we consider to be us.
Stories define, stories unite, stories can divide. But stories are a layer of our existence, rather than its essence or core.
In this climate of voicing and sharing and information overload, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by all of it, and our place within it. We find we desperately need solace to get back to a semblance of our authentic selves.
Because ultimately, this is our journey to take. Some roads can only be traveled alone.
We live in one vast shared space, and smaller sets of spaces we call communities, but how often do we really feel this anymore, as we reach out through computer screens, across the oceans of our individual minds, trying to connect by smashing through the technology to devour a sea of words?
Sometimes our hearts melt.
Sometimes we recoil in revulsion. Often we glance at the words on the screen and quickly find something else to do; they become the background noise to a life more or less distracted, and also more or less aware.
This is the situation we face.
We used to read a book, maybe two or three, and wholly immerse, and then go out to play and wholly immerse in that too. Now we take our words out to play on our phones, check in, like or comment and check out—and don’t wonder whether they, these precious words of ours, might need a little bit of freedom too.
Or if we need ours. If only so that we can find our way back to respecting the words again.
We wonder if we have anything to say worth anyone’s attention, and regret that we are probably not properly attending to the words of others. We want to share the grand stories of our lives, but are we being sensitive to the quality of this sharing? How does it make us feel? Is it enriching our being today, but maybe distracting us from feeling less isolated another day?
Some roads can only be traveled alone.
Alone doesn’t mean we’ve left the plane of humanity. But it also doesn’t mean alone with our computer screens and a vast reservoir of other people’s words. Alone doesn’t even mean sitting with nothing but our own words.
Even our own words, if we tune in enough, should become problematic, because they are not silence, and we need silence.
Our tool for understanding ourselves and constructing the world around us, language, is also the tool of our false starts, and can make a real mess of things.
Our words, one of mind’s byproducts, are very real extensions of us, but they are fickle creatures too, taking on a life of their own, traveling in the vehicle of our restless minds and taking off running, regardless of our instinctive need for quiet.
Our words—our stories—need us for their existence, but they have an uncanny way of shape-shifting this way and that, mingling with the words and stories of others, and turning into something we identify as our own, through it might not, this time, have anything to do with the place deepest inside.
Maybe we start to panic. Our intuition tells us something is amiss, that we have gotten lost in all the words and stories. That we have nothing to say, no ground from which to start.
So we try to turn inward and stop the flow of words. Find out what and who is there, before the words start flowing.
“In the beginning was the word.” – John, 1:1
As soon as we leap into the deepest fibers of humanity, the words our roadmap, we need to be especially conscious of the wordless place inside, that tall, strong, grandfather tree of a place to which we can return when our words threaten to topple us over.
If we want to be heard, we must listen.
If we want to be understood, we must try to understand. If we want to be loved, we must know unconditional love.
As we come closer to ourselves, revel in the silence of our truths, warm up in a sea of compassion and self-acceptance, those same words that have been crushing our capacity to breathe can become our allies, the most beautiful tools of our innately human desire to create and express.
The currency of our words is love.
Let’s allow our words to serve us, rather than the other way around. They are ready, and waiting to be used by us as we reach for communion, and respect for each and every voice out there.
Editor: Dana Gornall