I must confess, I do like to write about writing on occasion. In a way, it is talking about talking. It is a discussion about communicating with other individuals. Think about that for a moment. This idea of communicating with another person or two by way of written expression is something extra special. Well, written expression, what do we mean by that term? It is an obvious term understood by all, but is it really the case. With voice we can gain appreciation of such things as inflection and stress. But how are such concepts conveyed in writing? Shall I use, god forbid, emoticons? Maybe all capital letters or other such visual cues would be appropriate. On the other hand, was Lincoln as eloquent in his Gettysburg Address and he was on the written page? Now there is a question for you. With speech one mast pay attention and there can be no rereading the lines of text. Still, when you watch Ruggles of Red Gap you are in awe of Charles Laughton’s deliver of the Gettysburg Address. I love the conversation in the saloon: “Say, what did Lincoln say at Gettysburg? I don’t know, I wasn’t there.” Yet, as speeches go it is one of the finest ever delivered. Yet it had to be written first. That is the irony of oral communications, so much of it is written first and then repeated orally.
Well, in so many ways we have lost the extemporaneous speech ability that so much of the theater was based. I love the film, If I Were King with Ronald Coleman. You have to love that man’s voice. The elocution is suburb, beyond one’s fondest dreams. If only I could speak like that, my god, I should have the love of every woman for thousands of miles. Yet, on the other hand how could we forget That Welch poet, Dylan Thomas wrote in the voice of Thomas Hardy that poem about his father’s death. Do not go tender into that good night. I have heard Dylan Thomas and Anthony Hopkins both orate that poem in all its meaning. From intended meaning to the interpreted meaning that other attribute to the author or poet in this case, we hear the various sounds of dulcet tones waffing through the air. Well, we do like to play with words, don’t we. Not quite the e.e.cummings like arrangement upon paper which he had regretted creating as it distracted so from his meaning. Perhaps that is putting one’s finger upon the point, we contrive to be quire or daring or original or any one of a hundred different meanings or poses. This is our dilemma, our bug a boo as it were (sounds quite English, doesn’t it?).
So we have our conversations with family and friends. We have them with cohorts and coworkers and co-whatevers. we have informal conversations and formal talks and every possible oral communication under the sun. And some of it leaves us wanting and some if it is merely sound and fury signifying nothing. But this natural tendency to orally tell others what we thing, feel, and believe is a natural one. We need to convey what is on our minds, get things off our chests, and otherwise get things out in the open if we are to have any sane conversations at all. It is the air that we breathe, the songs that we sing, the way we hear what is important to us. No other animal on this earth has such needs, such compulsions, such ejaculations (don’t you just love that word?) to convey emotion, meaning, and thoughts. Language is that ultimate toy we love to play with so vividly, so often, so expertly if we have the skill. It fills us with awe and wonder and longing. We feel its tease, its wantonness, its sublime ecstasy when done so well.
If anyone really reached into the oral tradition and thrilled us so mightily it was William shakespeare. I suppose it might have been the iambic pentameter that did most of the magic, but still I am moved to stand with Charles the fifth so that I might celebrate Saint Crispin’s day. And yes, I bleed like Shylock and feel the wrath of antisemitism in my heart as I am slighted to the bone, to the core of my existence, by my own daughter as set to judge me and my religion. But is it the oral speech or do I find substance in the written language I see with mine own eyes? Can I not hear the words in my head as I read them and say them with a suitable voice gained from some actor whose dulcet tones I emulate? How do I detach the two? How can I separate these two ways of being from each other? Or is writing simply a variation on a theme? If I must concoct a voice within my head when I write, then do I not speak to myself in such a manner that transcends all written and oral processes? Is not this combination more sacred than any spiral of any sphere atop any cathedral? Is not this where the gods live to give us advice when their memories are plucked?
Ah, do you start to understand this power of communications that dominates both the mind and the body? How do I answer for my own speech? How do I think in words and phrases and sentences without this ability to provide the voices withing my head? Voices that are of reason and of emotion, and of illogical dialogue. We create our own worlds within and without our beings according to the strategies we employ. We create realities that may know no bound and some that are so easily bounded that they form a simple box of little more that a few statements. This is what separates us from the animals, this is what we have become. The embodiment of hope, desire, and imagination beyond the dreams of an unconscious reality.