Saturday, June 22, 2013

On Hearing Voices

You've had a number of teachers, many of whom resonate for you to this very day.  You needed to listen with care before you were ready for a mentor, and even when you had one, who resonates within you to this very day, you did not think of her as a mentor until she told you she heard voices, then asked you if you heard voices.

By this time, you cared enough about her and the influence she was having on you and the influence you expected she would continue to exert, that you began to worry something might be lacking in you because you did not hear voices.  When you spoke to her of this, she assured you that there were those who saw visions.

Seeing things or hearing them were on a par; neither was better than the other any more than being right- or left-handed was better.  Some situations were reducible to a simple either or an other.

You had a writer friend who confessed that he saw things on a screen within his head, a small, TV-like screen where his characters moved about and spoke.  All he needed to do was describe what they were doing.  You were several years away from recognizing that his writing was, in fact, descriptive as opposed to a more internal focus.

At this time, you began a series of doubt experiences, fearful because you neither heard nor saw.  Once again, your mentor reassured you with questions, wanting to know where the words and feelings began when you composed.  You explained to her that perhaps you were the third possibility, one who felt.  You were neither aware of voice or picture; the material emerged.

Ah, Rachel told you.  That makes you a hearer.  You go home and write.  Listen carefully.  You did, but because you were self-conscious, nothing came out for a number of days, during which you mostly sat, staring at your typewriter, daring a sound or vision to appear.

In time, you were approached by a concept for a story, amused by it, thinking of the actor, Sheldon Leonard, a frequent regular on the Jack Benny show, his voice sounding like an archetypal, Damon Runyon-esque gangster or con man.  Hey, bud, the story said.  Got something I wanna show you.

The next time you saw Rachel, you were able to tell her about the experience, so relieved at having one or the other, a sound or a vision, that you forgot to be embarrassed by your late awareness of process.  That was then, back in time, during the days of radio and television, and typewriters.

This is now. If you listen to a place long enough and with focus, it will begin to speak.  The longer you listen, and the more focus you apply, the more the place will begin to speak to you.The place will start by giving you a sample of itself during various stages of the day and its potential inhabitants or inner forces and mechanisms.  Even now, with vast improvements in your eyesight, which you never considered flawed or faulty,  thanks to cataract surgery, you see without contact lenses better than you were able to see with them.  This refreshed or revised sense of vision adds dimension to your hearing places as they describe themselves to you.

You contemplate further and the place begins to cooperate with you, giving you hints of how a particular character would relate to it.  The beginning is in your awareness that place has a personality.  There may be considerable sophistry in your concept of hearing the place.  There may be equal sophistry in your belief you can hear or read your own characters, who are, of course, your creations, your Golems, made from mud and myth, and need to combat forces of stasis and intimidation.

There may be considerable sophistry in your quasi-anthropomorphising if surroundings, of inanimate things such as rocks, mountains, deserts, oceans.  Not to forget attributing human qualities to animals.  In the true tradition of fiction being enhanced and exacerbated reality, there may be sophistry as well in your reading of humankind and a reductionism in your use of tides, lunar and oceanic, as a metric for the behavior of segments of humanity.

In metaphor, you may have come forth all these years, written these millions of words in search of your craft, only to be at the place you were before your mentor, amazed at her ability to hear voices, her ability to bring characters to life on the page, still unable to define the how and why of the way you intuit and form person, place, and thing for your stories and essays.  In actuality, you may have only made a slight dent in the surface of understanding your passion and the focus on story your passion has given you.

If so, you are much more grateful than frustrated or saddened.  You still have the voices of all the persons, places, and things you experienced, and your awareness of them speaking.  And the time to listen.

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