Monday, August 21, 2006

Verbal Medicine

Dear Reader,

When I was younger, I believed we were all created equal, that anyone could do what anyone else could do. I well understood some of the depths to which we could sink, having read extensively about the Holocaust, but I believed education and communication could save the human race. I idolized and idealized science.

Step by step, I was compelled out of these illusions. I came to understand that most people work very hard not to hear or learn anything that requires them to transform, that they resent anyone who tries to reach out to them through their walls. I learned that science is what it is, not what it could be, and the two are worlds apart.

So, step by step I learned to say less and less of what I truly believed outside my circle of friends. Ironically, in some quarters of my life this too was unacceptable: I could neither say the things I believed without incurring arguments that seemed never to progress to understanding, nor was I to be permitted to withdraw from those pointless, soul-killing conversations. My faith in communication has bounced off the bottom many times in the last few years.

I learned, though, that it is too late in my life for me to stop trying to communicate. It has become a need. Verbal Medicine may be a pun, but for me it is also serious business. Even if no one listens or understands or responds, I cannot be healthy unless I strive to put my thoughts and feelings into words, unless I try to reach out not just to those I know and love but also to others I do not yet know but who may find in my words a kindred spirit.

It is a bit ridiculous to do this, to cast my words out and entertain even a faint idea that they may find their intended audience. I am put in mind of that first tarot card: The Fool, stepping off the cliff, as we are all fools who try to make anything happen in this world, never even remotely comprehending what we will set in motion nor how crazy it is to imagine the cosmic forces that invisibly crowd our lives will ever permit our arrow to hit the mark we intend for it. Yet without that ridiculous hope and effort we would be no more than jetsam.

We attract more flies with honey than vinegar. I could be much more entertaining in this blog than I am. I do know how. I have written for decades now, and have run Dungeons and Dragons games since 1978. I could spin the fun stories, be witty, work harder to be the entertainer, but I do not want flies. I want to reach out neither to the walking appetites who make up the vast ballast of our culture, nor to the walking calculators who run it. I hope my writing style and topics are as unentertaining for such people as possible. I hope that somehow the fewest of the few, the adults out there, the ones who bring their heart and head into everything they do, the ones with the endless curiosity, the paradoxically playful and serious ones, the ones who care more about truth and justice and art and hope and other people and other species than they do about feeling good or acquiring status or power . . . crazy as it may be, I hope that something in my vinegar writing draws such people.

Because the verbal medicine I really need is not just self-expression, which I worshipped as an end in itself as a teenager and which now I find fairly futile, but dialog with other nuts like me. I know you are out there. We are not alone. We are just atomized, segregated from each other by the lack of the kinds of social contexts that would nurture us as a permanent community. Perhaps we could consider some kind of mutual activity together other than merely satisfying our appetites or indulging in temporary pretend-escape from this mess we all find ourselves in. Maybe we could heal ourselves with a little help from each other. Maybe we could heal more than that, if we worked together. Who knows?

Like I said: crazy; The Fool. But there it is. I gotta try.

Yours truly,

1 comment:

N'beel said...

you're right, Rick. there are some other nuts out there. i am one of them, and i am listening.

i discovered your blog when i tried googling the name of my own. finding another one with the same name was surprising enough. but let me tell you, reading this particular entry, this eponymous snippet about you and your writing, i felt a chill. somebody else out there with the same outlook. same reasons for starting a blog. and even the same crazy rationale to call it verbal medicine.

my journey, like most, has been a profoundly personal one. knowing you are out there is strangely uplifting.