Gaining Our Own Voice

Allen Ginsberg wrote, “To gain your own voice, you have to forget about it being heard.” Most great truths require great persistence. This partly explains why Buddha wrapped his insights in riddles while Christ used parables. Socrates often used open-ended questions requiring critical analysis while Confucius offered constructs requiring deductive reasoning.

As Mark Twain so astutely observed, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” Twain was not implying majority opinion is inherently flawed but was rather asserting the importance of knowing the rationale underlying our convictions. If we’ve simply accepted certain truths because they’re popular, we have plenty of empty beliefs without any effectual convictions. Writing and other endeavors can seem futile when we’re crying into the wilderness like the falling tree that may or may not make a sound when no one is around. Reading insightful material that might not be particularly enjoyable, for example, can seem like an unrequited burden. But developing meaningful connections with readers (or others) begins with understanding the connections within ourselves. How can we expect to understand and empathize with others if we do not even know ourselves?

I intermittently stopped writing and even reading serious material for approximately eight years. I abandoned a novel that was two-thirds completed, expecting to never touch it again. I feared provocative writing and reading might take me back to places I didn’t believe I was strong enough to visit and revisit. Perhaps I just had to live before I could write effectively. When I was delivered from my seclusion, unexpected thoughts poured out of me like waters bursting through a weakened dam.

Wise seekers learn to surround themselves with the most intelligent people available. Admitting ignorance might make us look foolish for a relatively brief time. Clinging it to ensures we will never be delivered from the wilderness. We’re all ignorant on different topics to various degrees. As with other problems, admitting ignorance is an integral step to eradicating it.

We’ve probably all heard the expression that people don’t change. Experience suggests certain people don’t change. Others do indeed change for better and for worse. A voice once found can be lost. Consider the argument of John Updike:

“On being conscious of being a writer:

As soon as one is aware of being “somebody,” to be watched and listened to with extra interest, input ceases, and the performer goes blind and deaf in his overanimation. […] Most of the best fiction is written out of early impressions, taken in before the writer became conscious of himself as a writer. The best seeing is done by the hunted and the hunter, the vulnerable and the hungry; the “successful” writer acquires a film over his eyes. His eyes get fat. Self-importance is a thickened, occluding form of self-consciousness. The binge, the fling, the trip – all attempt to shake the film and get back under the dinning-room table, with a child’s beautifully clear eyes.”

― John Updike, Self-Consciousness

We can settle for the ubiquitous participation trophies in this age that tends to glorify mediocrity. We can be content knowing we once had our own voice. Or, we can push the limits of imagination, persistence, determination, patience, and dedication to discover just how far we can ride the human spirit.


Photo by TewTam LLC Fine Art Photography and Painting.


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