Friday, March 30, 2012

Wilderness Has No Words

Sometimes I imagine that life has already picked my bones bare. And then I tell myself that I have not yet lived. But the truth is that I have lived enough to know that I am already dying. But I feel alive, even as I slouch farther and farther from the bright chaos of origin, of birth, of coming into this world.

Sometimes this means I don't know how to talk to you. Or to her. Or him. Or maybe it means you don't yet speak my language.

I'm a literature/philosophy person. I love ideas and poetry--things that cut us in every direction. I didn't study rhetoric or linguistics like some of my friends, but I am still often fascinated by conversations in which people engage--by their structures and rhythms, their transparencies and idiosyncrasies. I also simply love language, and recently it occurred to me that conversations can destroy language. Language is something that is shared--a dialogue. In theory, a conversation is also something that is shared--an exchange of words and ideas. Well, yes, it should be.

But words are used so carelessly. I'm thinking of a conversation in which I recently pretended to engage: two men, two women, beautiful faces, charming smiles, careless laughter, many words. My soul is dying as I pretend to be kind. Many hours together and yet I cannot recall why I laughed when I did--why I appeared to laugh--or what I could have possibly said, what words I could have used as I skimmed the surface with them. If only I, too, could be satisfied.

And then tonight I found something. Someone recently gave me a collection of poems (The Deleted World) by the Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer.  Something about this one ("From March 1979") feels right:

Sick of those who come with words, words but no language,
I make my way to the snow-covered island.

Wilderness has no words. The unwritten pages
stretch out in all directions.

I come across this line of deer-slots in the snow: a language, 
language without words.

And I wonder: is it really true--must a need for language without words exile us to a wilderness?

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