Jordan Peterson (no I know this is not Jordan; it’s Ernest) said “to not say what you think is to kill your unborn self” to deny yourself or some such thing. I’m certain that’s the drive for those of us who become writers.
It was certainly true of Ernest Hemingway, who started every writing day at 5 a.m. by writing one sentence he knew to be true. One True Thing. In order to do this, though, at least in Hemingway’s case, he had to keep distance between himself and his family, especially his mother. He couldn’t seem to be free to write what he thought in her presence. And it seems he eventually distanced himself from almost everyone, choosing to move on to new people rather than wrestle with the mess made in interpersonal relationships. That seemed to happen eventually even with his children.
Though Hemingway had fond memories of an idyllic childhood and when his mother was beautiful. Beauty mattered to him always.
Saying what you think is the concept of our time, really, isn’t it? It’s the big kahuna, the essence of it all, since there is an orchestrated effort to stop some of us from doing just that. To silence and censor anyone disagreeing with what is now deemed and so ordained: politically correct. No debate. No discussion. Silence. No platform to be heard.
One of my favorite writers, my mentor at one time, wrote a book of short stories titled Wanting Only to Be Heard. I thought it might have been the best title I had ever read–the best title any writer could choose. No title could ever top it. And I wonder as to his politics these days and how someone who could write a title like that could find today’s cancel culture and actual censorship palatable. And the fact I don’t know what he thinks about it might say it all.
As a writer, someone who has done this since junior high school, I can’t think of anything more abhorrent, than what has been going on here for a while.
But then I know people, even close friends, who hardly ever say what they think. They seem to avoid it at all costs. Guard this private part of themselves which I suppose they think is being loving, sparing others, but is really being selfish–the hoarding of one’s essence, the hubris of personality, because they are so afraid if they share it, they will be dilluted and disappear. Like Native Americans who thought people taking their photograph were stealing their souls? But it’s more just that–a hoarding–an incredible self-absorption, a shutting out of those one loves–more that, than any particular kindness.
What is the point of that?
You want to live and die without being known by even those closest to you? Without leaving anything at all behind–for them — in some concrete manner?
And without taking a real risk?
That is what you give up when you don’t say what you think.
I gave my mother a journal type book once. It consisted of prompts to give people jumping off places so they could write about themselves and it could be passed down to future generations.
She refused to write in it.
I found it in the closet when she died.
I suppose part of that is the ability to say what you think persuasively–though being persuasive sometimes entails being direct–something not always appreciated. Tact is the better part of valor–except when it isn’t.
And sometimes it’s not.
I’ve been at a time in my life where writing anything really creative has been difficult–the stress of care-taking. Life and love in the time coronavirus and cancel culture have left me void of my usual imaginative writing, a state of affairs that seems to be slowing shifting back into focus.
Do I always say what I think? No. Not when there is nothing constructive to be had from saying it. And not when I think my spirit can thrive if it remains unsaid. Even if words are painful, they have to have a truly constructive goal–one of the above –or I won’t say it. I won’t claim to have never erred doing it, and I’ve done it poorly a time or two when it was necessary–a sad state of affairs for a writer.
But if you feel something strongly enough, to not say it is indeed to kill one’s unborn self.
It’s painful out right now.
It’s as if we’ve all been thrown in the ocean and in true sink or swim fashion, you see who really wants you to float, those who will stand up for your right to rise, your buoyancy, even when they don’t appreciate to where you are swimming.
To mix a metaphor, those who really want you to be heard. Anyway.
I’ve had quite a few people try to silence me and/or say nothing about some of the cancel culture that has befallen my career; and I’ve had some really good friends actively try to silence me. Or pull me down. Some are simply silent which is loud in its denunciation. It’s disruptive to the spirit, yes, but it’s not all bad, I’m finding. It becomes clear who was really on your side in the first place, who believed in you at all!
And there’s clarity in that. A certain order to it.
And even a certain amount of peace, not to have to guess.
I am posting this ahead a few hours. I’m listening to my dad’s oxygen machine. It’s a mechanical lung. It inhales and then it sighs in exhale. Musical somehow. A downdraft, but to the rhythm of a metronome. I know it will alarm if it malfunctions; I do not know if it alarms if HE malfunctions.
I have never asked.
I normally drift off around 3-4 a.m. and then sleep soundly if all goes well from 5-11.
Sometimes it doesn’t.
Tomorrow (today) our bank should set the closing date, the shower lady comes, Comfort Keepers come to evaluate again, I hear it may rain…