A reply to: A Letter from Seth
Right. So it would happen, every year or two, that a student would see right through me. I’d be faced with a choice: posture or respond.
Posturing was easier.
Responding, for me, is tough. But even saying this puts up a mask: the mask of authenticity.
You want to know? What I hide behind Shakespeare is the part of me that is terrified of your intelligence and insight and refusal to go along with social norms. What I hide behind the finger-moon nonsense is an old man who’s infatuated with his own self-assurance and the mask of nonsense he wears to facilitate interactions with others. It’s a way of keeping anything authentic and real at bay. That’s all.
I’m not ready to dispense with social niceties. I’m not ready to take off my masks. I need them.
Obviously, my masks don’t hide anything from you. Fine. I accept that.
I’m still not ready to take them off.
I don’t think I’ll answer your question about my nothing. Not today.
I’m a happy person. I’m naturally cheerful. It’s the way my brain works when I step outside and a mockingbird sings. That’s all. It’s simple chemistry.
I’m feeling defensive right now. I could put this letter away, work through the feelings on my own, come back when my own peace had returned. But I think I won’t.
I think I’ll sit here at the keyboard and breathe.
Tell me a story of grace, Seth.
So: I wanted to reach out to you because you seemed lonely and you seemed to be asking to be heard. My story about listening wasn’t to tell you to listen. It was to remind me to listen.
It was a round-about way of me saying I’d do my best to listen to you.
My story about Johnson was to point towards that communication that happens without words. For me, even as a man who’s spent my life with words, words lie. They are artifice. They twist and bend the truth. I’m not saying that your words lie: your words point at the truth. I hear that. I’m saying that my words lie. I cannot have a deep conversation and approach truth, for as I fit the unbounded into the construct of words, it shifts into something I don’t mean. It’s the finger pointing at the moon: and this isn’t me hiding. This is me trying not to hide.
The communication that happens without words, when I meet another in the spark of energy that forms between two beings, that is true for me.
I have a grandniece. She has quickly become a favorite person of mine. She doesn’t understand a word I say, unless I speak Urdu, and I know very little Urdu. But we communicate beautifully.
All right. I’m feeling less defensive.
I’m sorry if I can’t meet you in the level of truth that you demand. I will do my best. I’ll do my best to listen. I’ll do my best to let you have your cares and your worries. You know I want to save everyone, you included. I’ll do my best not to try.
You know what I like about silence? Everything settles out. There are no worries. There’s not even any separation.
I’m wondering if I should even send this letter.
Here’s what I don’t understand about using words: These words that I’ve written are my responses, complete in all my insecurities and defensiveness. In that way, this is an honest communication. I’m not hiding behind composition.
This is a rough draft, a discovery draft.
I could keep this letter in my “Drafts” folder and not send it. Then I could compose a letter revealing my composed self. That would be the way contractual conversation could occur: the writing would be designed to communicate. This letter is not designed to communicate. It’s a spilling out of my thoughts and feelings. This letter reveals.
I have a feeling that if I were to compose a letter to you, you would look through the words, seeking what was beneath them. Whether I send you something composed or something spilling over, like this, either way, you’ll see through the artifice, and I’ll be revealed.
I guess that’s what I try to avoid. With the wordless communication that I love so much what is revealed is grace, that spark of being within each of us. I crave that contact.
When I communicate with words what’s revealed is the structure of the mind and the clutter of the emotions–all that detritus. Why would I want to share that with anyone?
Is that what you were trying to look behind in my previous letter?
I seem to talk a lot when I listen, don’t I?
Wishing you grace and unexpected kindnesses,