I was in a bit of muddle earlier this week, experiencing moments of hazy, not-too-sure of my cognitive abilities. In times like this I turn to the pages of my journal to create a mind map of my thought process as it unfolds. Unfold it did, as it is prone to when it meets the page, and I followed the trail with the persistence of the runner who, lungs on fire, still perseveres even if she has to slow down the pace and come to a trot. But run she shall until her internal goal is reached. And sure enough, the invisible cloak got a slight kink and the thread began to show itself.
I began to divide myself (The scenario unfolds as such. At the time of confronting an issue I have learnt to sit quietly in the corner of the ceiling looking down on my thinking self. This skill was partly acquired from the movie Patch Adams. I hereby recommend the film as a decent representation of creative thinking). Anyway, the thread. I wrote in said journal, “What is the issue? I do not know. How then do I communicate? Therefore first order of the day as it stands is identifying the core issue. Until I do so, I shall not find the appropriate language with which to articulate and communicate my point effectively.”
At that moment, I grew excited. I looked at the sentence again. I looked at the thoughts that preceded it. They were mainly questions, emotions, before the selves began to separate themselves and the curious one started taking over. I hadn’t thought about it this way before. Before I could communicate effectively I needed to figure out exactly what the issue was, and this required me owning my side of the story. And then my father’s advice came through:
"In a given situation, the other is the variable. You are the constant. What matters is that you are grounded in yourself. This place and everything in it is ephemeral you know. And if you aren’t careful, the world will take you along with it wherever it goes."
It was I had to admit a powerful image, something like the perfect storm.
I came back to the issue of language. I knew that I wanted to write something on that this week. But instead I present here, a sort of stream of consciousness, taking you the reader along my path, carrying you like a current into my own head.
I thought about language in the context of our politics and politicians – the fact that the Honourable Prime Minister thought it appropriate to present a breakdown of expenditure to the public in a pre-election year. It brought to mind some lines from Charles D’Ambrosio’s essay Misreading. He describes one love relationship thus:
“Our whole time together she was less a girlfriend than a hypothesis, a vague guess at the truth, in constant need of testing and verification, further research…I knew she was lying to me, but that doesn’t mean I knew what was true. In this way, our relationship had the character of a rumour, something I’d heard about, something I knew only secondhand.” (Charles D’Ambrosio’s Loitering: New and Collected Essays).
He continues: “Every lie breaks the world into two, it divides the narrative, and eventually I fell through a crack into the subplot, becoming a minor character in my own life.” (Ambrosio, Loitering)
How much of our construction of nation and nationhood, how much our sense of the world is created and also limited by the vocabulary we are fed? How long are we willing to be the minor characters in our own lives? I add to Ambrosio’s observation on this division of the world through my own experience. Each time we believe a lie we are split into different selves because to make a decision to believe or not, we instinctively draw from our experiences and we experience the world from the different self positions. At which point do we begin to bring together the ethnic, personal, political selves, break them into emotional and thinking, and begin to identify our core issues? At which point do we begin to recognize that language has the power to create and that we can indeed use it creatively to make our lives?
Perhaps it is also wise to do as many writers do when they begin crafting a story – with the end in mind – and that means having main character/s as the focal point. So, this year as we prepare to walk towards the voting stations next year, we should be asking ourselves, which one of the characters am I in my story and by extension, the nation’s story?