Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Lost Art of Talking Introduced by Walking

Everyone has a story and one of the reasons I write this blog is to tell my stories and others' stories. Often I will say something profound in front of people like, "Werner Herzog knows nature like Dean Moriarty knows time," and the people will change the subject to weather or just walk away. I understand people don't have much time anymore to listen to each other, but I always feel discouraged when this happens to me.

And so I go on walks with my backpack full of heavy books. If no one wants to listen to me, why put myself in the position of being hurt by being with people?

Not to mention, when I walk alone, I have time to become coherent to myself.

Of course when I got to the library there was people there, but I still didn't feel like talking so I sat down on a bench next to an old man with a white beard and asked him about himself. I asked as many questions as I could and he told stories of his work as a truck driver, his family, and all about the glory days of hitch-hiking when he was a young man. He talked to me as if he hadn’t talked to anyone in weeks. He spurted everything as it came to mind, as if his life was at stake for the telling of his stories. He was made alive by the stories because they were him and he was the only one who could tell them. He spoke as if the hours he spent alone in the truck were spent in deep thought, cataloguing the hard facts of who he was and what he believed about the nature of himself and everything around him. His family was lucky to have this resource of such deliberate humanity spoken through words.

His speech was eloquent in its simplicity and revolved around him as if in orbit, never contradicting or unsure of its path. Unlike anyone else I have ever met, including myself, he knew how to speak. He was pure and untainted. He had no hidden motives, like the rest of us. I felt something in my body telling me this man was the only one who needed to speak and incited in me the desire to be like him. I wanted deeply to be an oracle, but I didn’t know if I have it in me. My desire already makes my words impure.

But I tried. He started to ask me the questions and I found myself talking more than I ever had before. The exchange of stories was now made complete. I spoke of everything all at once, but clearly and with wild gesticulating.

At the end the man said, "You are an excellent speaker."

My smile turned instantly. This was the first time I heard such a thing. In fact, I had heard often I was the exact opposite. "I swear I'm not," I said. "You can ask my family or my co-workers and they would tell otherwise. I do not tell them the stories I know."

"Why not?" he asked.

I thought for a moment. "Because I don't like myself and when I attempt to tell stories about my true-self they come out all wrong. I get nervous, I mumble, and say outrageous and peculiar things. I might as well be speaking a different language."

"I'm not sure I understand. What don't you like about yourself?"

I thought once again for a moment. "Because I don't think I can give others what they want."

He was silent. He let me speak, maybe more for myself, than him.

"And so I can only tell the stories of my true-self to strangers like you, because I don't want to give you anything. I do want to give something to those I care about, but since I have nothing to offer, I make up stories or tell others' stories so they don't realize how I'm not actually giving them anything. Then they'd see how worthless I really am."

"Your great gift of story-telling is being destroyed by the very fact that you don't feel like you have any gifts to offer people?"

"Yes!" And I was in tears.

"What can you do about it?" he asked as if he had no answers; as if only I did.

"I don't know if there is anything. The desire to be accepted and to be a story-teller of my true-self don't work together. How can I eliminate these desires if they are already in me? Desire comes from a longing of what isn't there. Of what I am not. It doesn't work to do anything about it because only if I eliminate the desire to be a great story-teller will I become a great story-teller."

I was silent, excepts the gasps of air I was swallowing. After a time, I explained further and he waited.

"It is like how I like this girl. The only way I can truly love her is to eliminate the desire I have for her. Otherwise I desire her for what she can give me. Once I abandon the idea of caring what she thinks of me can I give myself purely to her for her sake and not mine."

It is an untrue story of me to become a great speaker or a great lover. But maybe I'm in good company.