What Can't be Said?

Submitted by Virginia Watts on Sun, 10/20/2013 - 17:51

Living for a long time is not easy. Your consciousness has to be challenged, your intellect too. Never mind the physical. Your body doesn't respond as it used to, you are slow. You sometimes get really tired. But because of these things you may be given the opportunity to sort out some things. Reflection is a big important word, and I would like to use it here, but I think sorting is really more about what I am doing these days. Not only the stuff in my life, but the stuff that has made up my life. I try to write about what has shaped me, and find it to be more of a list of what happened, than what I want to say. I fancy myself a writer, but I think that is just the container I would like to put my life into. Maybe I'm not a writer. Maybe I'm something else other altogether. But if I write about what I am thinking, I want it to be real. I think the pull of the writing life to put it all out there can be seductive, like anything, to dig deep, deeper, and maybe even sell out your pain to make a noise that someone else can hear. And what I don't want to do is sell out.

I can write pain, alienation, suffering. Even loneliness. But it is never the personal emotion I'm expressing. I can't do it. I protect my personal pain like a treasure. And it is something very precious. It is the thing that I alone can own. No one can take it from me. It is how I know who I am, and how I can function. It formed me, it is also my ability to function. Form and function? I really don't know what that means.

I know that I don't know quite a lot. And that sometimes terrifies me, and sometimes I am really glad about it. But the thing that scares me is when I am tempted to pretend that I know more than I know. Those conversations where someone quotes from literature or current events, or history and I don't get it. I want to be able to say "I don't know who that is." Or, "Could you tell me more about that?" Or "I'm lost here - did I hear you right?"

I think there is a very grave (and I mean that in all the meanings of that word) danger in the way I continue to interact in this world. The danger to pretend that we know more than we know, that we get a conversation that has escaped us, is a real one. More and more the yellow caution tape goes up and I say to myself "Wait, I didn't get that. I don't understand what that means, I don't know who they are talking about, I'm not sure how this is relevant, I need more information." And that last bit, needing more information, for me, is what has to be the way to sort things. If there is a reason not to understand, fine. If there is information I haven't had until now, that's fine. But I see the danger in pretending.

I know there is a danger in pretending to get it. I know that you can be buried by a mountain of pretending to be smarter, hipper, more connected than you really are. That's true no matter what your age. I need to be honest with myself, about what I know and what I don't know yet. I need to be honest about what I can understand and what may be outside my ability to understand, whether it be from lack of experience or intellect. If I can continue to ask the questions and be willing to continue to learn, I may be able to make a better sort. Of life. Of the things in my life. Courage is required. To keep asking the questions. It isn't easy.