My Troubles — Why I Am Not Allowed to Speak

I don’t want to overstate my troubles. From most perspectives, my life is good. My trouble is actually a trouble about self-expression, and of all troubles, that is the easiest to bear, compared with troubles related for example to self-preservation. Preserve the self first, express it later, because if you fail to preserve it, what will you have to express, Father J tells me, rhetorically. And why shouldn’t he? He’s a rhetor.

Look to be honest — and I say that although everyone who has passed through even the first oratorical training knows that it is simply an ornamental embellishment, if that, since those who are dishonest are as likely to employ it as those who are not — to be honest, I repeat — I am allowed to “speak” if by “speak” you mean what “speak” means in English. However “to speak” in English is systematically ambiguous between two words in my native language, which translate to

i)speak with a hope of actually effecting changes in the world
ii)to speak without any actual reasonable hope of effecting changes in the world.

In the second sense I am allowed to speak or say whatever I please as often as I want, in whatever form or attitude is pleasing to me. But what I am not allowed to do is to speak in the first sense, because it is, in a word, expensive.

To speak with a hope of actually being heard is an expensive undertaking. It requires paying royalties to those who own the intellectual property on the words for example — all of our words are owned by someone, and for some words — beauty, truth, democracy, love, god — the chain of title and the collection of shareholders who must be paid off is labyrinthine in the extreme!

And if that were not expensive enough the means of making the words effectual is dear to purchase or even rent.

Because we are powerful. We exist at the end of the Long Trail, the Great Saying is within our power. We say “Let there be light” and there is light. We say “Murder is wrong” and it is wrong. We say “Great panda — an animal that eats bamboo” and Lo! the panda before us stands.

Extreme power like that is expensive. You have to apply to the Fathers and make your application clear and persuasive before you are allowed to speak.

Nine out of ten applications are for permission to clarify the existing words, which are engraved in the basement in the stone that is no stone.

But some are for new things. And I want to say a new thing.

The Fathers want to help me. They say “What is the thing you want to say?”

And I say “I can’t explain it. It was so beautiful. It was a beautiful thing.”

And the Fathers say “Go on. What was it?”

And I say “I just don’t know! I wish I did, but I don’t.”

And the Fathers say “But why do you think it is beautiful then? Why call it beautiful.”

And I say “I don’t know! I don’t know!”

And Father-K who is the one who is of all the Fathers most indulgent to me says “Why worry if it is beautiful. Can you at least say that it is a thing? What sort of thing is it?”

And I say “I don’t know if it is a thing even. I would just like to say it.”

I am racing through the streets by night, it is so long since I have had eyes or ears or a body or feet that I don’t even remember what these words mean. The Fathers have come with me in my backpack — it turns out that they have things to say as well and don’t know how. By tomorrow morning we will be far away.


2 thoughts on “My Troubles — Why I Am Not Allowed to Speak

  1. Jeff says:

    I take it back- i love, love THIS post! even though it doesn’t remind me of dickinson.
    a rilke/rumi milkshake, maybe.

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