29 September 2012

A reading story

"Every secret of a writer's soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works"  

People send me quotable quotes.  Sometimes I remember my favorite section of the Reader’s Digest, ‘Quotable Quotes’.  I don’t know if the following actually appeared in those pages or if it was something my brother quoted by way of remark on that section: ‘Every fiftieth quotable quote is a direct contradiction of the first’.  So Quote 1is negated by Quote 50. Quote 2 by Quote 51 and so on.  It is a quotable quote though, even though I can’t remember him mentioning quote-author. 

In a Cartesian world this does not make sense of course, but then again life is not a black-white thing.  When one affirms something, one simultaneously negates it.  Take the above quote, for example (I will ignore the interjection of that mysterious and probably untenable thing referred to as ‘soul’, for purposes of clarity and brevity).

To begin with it is physically impossible to pen down every thought, every experience and every quality of one’s mind.  That would be taking diarizing to lunatic extremes.  It would also indicate a self-absorption that is beyond description.  It would, thirdly, indicate that someone really needs to get a life. And, in the spirit of being suspicious of black-white postulation, one could say that the diarizer wouldn’t have much to say.  Or perhaps, that exercise would give a good balance of living and recording, who can tell? 

Not everything gets written and not because there’s no time.  There are things that get stuck in the throat.  There are things that get stuck between eyelids and therefore forbid seeing or else ‘show’ in strange refraction.  So when we do record it’s mis-record that actually happens. 

There are things that don’t get written because there’s no will to write.  There are indescribable things, after all.  And sometimes, we don’t write because we don’t want people to know or at least don’t want everyone to know. 

Udayasiri Wickramaratne, in the earlier versions of his soliloquy filled play ‘Suddek Oba Amathai (A white man addresses you), had a short confession by ‘a frightened man’ (Baya Una Minisek Oba Amathai) where the following observations were laid before the audience:

‘I am scared.  I am terrified that I might mistakenly do the right thing.  I am terrified that I might say the truth by mistake.  I would be finished.  That’s my greatest fear: saying or doing the right thing.’

There are things we don’t say and don’t do because we just can’t deal with the consequences (of people discovering who we really are and what we really do).  And what holds for everyone is true for the writer as well.  You won’t, for example, find many political commentators openly stating bias.  Well, that’s true for ‘news’ reporters and editors too.  They feign neutrality.  They inscribe on persona some kind of subscription to some ‘universal’, be it values, laws, truth or notions of Utopia.  Anyway, what this means is that there is a part we hide, yes, a part of ‘soul’ (if you will), life experience, quality of mind etc. 

In other words, there are silences.  The things that will not get written.  The things that one tries to block by saying ‘I will not answer that questions,’ for example. 

And yet, can anyone say that the stated reveals more than the unstated or ‘unstatable’?  Do not the things we put down in words also lie, also hide, distract, cloud and in other ways erect barrier to reading? 

There are people with vacant eyes.  They reveal, in the very least, the fact that their words should not be heard.  There are people who are silent and we read them by what they do.  There are people who do and don’t say and some who say but don’t do. 

We are all read.  And we are read handicapped by glint of ignorance and arrogance.  And our inarticulate utterings do not for one moment make reading more difficult than when we are lucid. 

It all depends on the eyes that do the reading.  And eyes can at times pierce the most formidable barrier and weave through the most complex maze of mirrors. As long as there is humility and as long as the blindness of arrogance is kept at bay.   



Anonymous said...

It is possible that silences are read far more accurately than the silent parties ever imagine. It is also possible that it is because of this reading and knowing that the deafening silences are tolerated and even nurtured. Silent parties rarely have a clue how much of themselves they have revealed to knowing eyes. True, it all depends on the eyes that do the reading. Finally, it is also possible that the eyes that read pretend not to know for fear of being hit at for knowing. Helplessness all around.

Anonymous said...

‘I am scared. I am terrified that I might mistakenly do the right thing. I am terrified that I might say the truth by mistake. I would be finished. That’s my greatest fear: saying or doing the right thing.’

Some people love to live in fear when it's very simple to let go of it. Sometimes what they are scared of, is all make-believe like the monsters under the bed of a 6-year old.

Anonymous said...

Knowing or not knowing depends on the perception of the receiver and the prevalent situation. It's wise to speak the correct content at the right moment, keeping the desired endstate in focus. "Silence is gold", it is said.