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Word Art: Speak

This is one of the first pieces I did, in about the same style as That Which Is Called the Heart and Spiral, which is to say in the style of still figuring out what the heck I was doing.  I made it because I decided that I wanted a background to my Twitter page that didn’t look like anybody else’s.  (Excerpts of it are also visible as the banner on this blog.)  I picked three colors–red, black and blue, to match the colors in the photo I was using at the time–and alternated each sentence.  Since there was no white space to work around, the words went every which way I felt like, though I pointed them in the vague direction of the nature of the Internet and communication.



We are here because we want to be heard.

Not just in the external sense, the milling crowds of humanity, but the internal we as well, the multitudes we all contain, despite our best efforts to present a unified front, a single face to the world.

‘My name is Legion—there are so many of us’ pleaded the man possessed, but I suspect that when those tenants were evicted and given new homes, there were still many left so that the place was simply less crowded.

And do not make the error of mistaking our masks for our multitudes.

We pick our faces as we decide upon the outfits that we will match to the surroundings we plan to be in.

Yet here in these electric spaces, we are so perfectly hidden that we can, as paradox as it may seem, reveal ourselves completely.

Sometimes, alas, it is our brutal selves that emerge, the demons we bury under polite facades who run rampant in this space without consequence.

But in spaces where the monsters can be held at bay, our delicate selves can be allowed to emerge, the way raindrops become snowflakes in the heatless air.

Why do some see fit to congratulate themselves for possessing contradictions, as if this makes them strange and complex and something greater than the milling crowd?

One might as well boast about possessing two different eyes as if the rest of the world were one-eyed or blind.

(In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man gets his eye gouged out for being different.)

We are all of us contradictions and far too much misery springs from the drive to be held to one self and deny all others.

No, not in our lovers, in our lives.

Monogamy is really a treaty between two kingdoms.

The greater the intersections between their citizens, the more tightly bound the nations become.

Is this what they mean by the two becoming one?

The crowds of our inner multitudes flowing into a larger crowd that seems to be one mass from a distance?

What a seething crowd we’d be if every single one of us let our crowds unfurl.

And so we are in this space, our citizens demanding their voices and quietly listening to others.

Sometimes we speak the language of sensibility.

Other times, flickers of madness are given an instant to shine with the intensity and brevity of lightning.

For some of us the glow is constant and we avert our eyes at the burning of it.

And I pity the ones who never allow that light to be seen, lest it illuminate too much and draw too much attention.

Some of us wave our madness like signal flares, hoping for rescue.

Others neglect it and let it burn out of control.

Still others try to smother it and those stories never end well.

But in this lightning storm, do perhaps some of us see something new in the moment of clarity, something they’d like to see more of?

Would someone light a match or kindle two sticks, to see clearly what was glimpsed in that flash of insight?

Or are they too terrified of what they might see and retreat to the soothing darkness to pretend that such things don’t really exist, for if they did, we’d see them all the time.

Wouldn’t we?

Wouldn’t we, though? (Though that assumes that reality itself is far more enduring than it proves to be in practice.)

And so our fleeting lightning moments are captured in an electric network and preserved for the world to see.

Sometimes, in shame, we unsay those words and hope no one traces the traces they leave behind.

But mostly we say what we mean or think we mean.

Sometimes the wind will carry our words farther than we ever imagined going.

Most times, we dream of a wind that never comes, or try to huff and puff such a wind into being.

But the winds are not summoned by our egos.

They come when we tap into something that flows with the current of things.

Some have mastered this art, others merely imagine themselves to be masters of it.

The closer to the center, the farther out you reach.

With each light we allow the worlds to see, we grant another permission to shine.

Do not light the brightness of another’s light diminish your own.

Instead, learn to shine that much more brightly.

Spotlights are temperamental things that don’t always linger as long as we’d like.

This is why we must bring our own brightness and let that light our way.

Because we do all shine on, “like the moon and the stars and the sun.”

And so by the glow of screens and cell phones, we shine on in our six billion crazy ways.

How much brighter we’d be if we let all our lights emerge.

But, ah, how hard is brilliance to maintain in this world.

The spotlight can be as much a bane as a blessing.

Some days we crave the cool darkness.

Sometimes it burns so, to be in the center of our incandescence, and so we shrink from it.

But one can become acclimated to the heat, with time and practice and persistence and courage.

And then one day you wonder why you wasted so much time in the dark.

We are not made unique by what we take from the world, for anything we take can be taken by another.

We are made unique by what we bring to the world, the parts of ourselves that no one else on this Earth can replicate.

And yet so many define themselves by their external trappings, even as they secretly chafe against their restrictions.

It seems so many people fear to go within, fear too look too deeply into themselves for fear of what they may find.

With one hand we pat ourselves on the back for being like no other.

And yet with the other, we reach out hungrily to find another like us so we won’t feel so terribly alone.

And so with the transmission of ones and zeroes comes the transmission of our hopes and dreams and our deepest desires.

And the ears to hear or the eyes to see such things need not be known to us before the connection is made.

We are now linked in ways it would have been impossible to link so effortlessly in times past.

The voices of authority have a harder time drowning out the voices of the subordinate.

Who, then, is really in charge?

What if we all of us were?

What a world it would be if we all claimed our kingdoms, made our alliances and learned the way to peace through plenty?

We live in an age of overwhelming abundance and yet we barely notice when we have more than enough.

How changed the world would be if we made note of this.

And yet the full are afraid to flow over, afraid that what they had would be beyond replenishment if they were to fill the hollow cracked spaces.

The holes in their own souls must be filled first, they decree, not knowing that the solid sorts of things they use are the wrong medicine for that affliction.

A spiritual gap cannot be filled with a material object.

A physical lack cannot be filled with mere words and well wishes.

But the spirit can bend the material when flesh is moved by the soul.

This is what we hope for when we call to the heart—that we will stir music in the soul that will lead to the dance of life.

But our mistake is believing that his somehow exempts us from taking our own actions.

All the chatter in the world has not the power of one single focused action.

(Though words are at least useful in advising us what action to take.)

There are times when it is enough to just be.

Fortunate is your life if you have the latitude and will to have such times.

And there are times when the words end, the sleeves are rolled and the action begins.

In the end, it is perhaps better to act first and then speak than to speak first and then act.

Though even speech before action is better than speech without action.

Few things annoy quite like the one who speaks endlessly of his brilliance and yet never bothers to truly shine.

I dare you to show me your heart.

Show me in words, show me in deeds, choose your weapons with care but show me your heart.

I dare you.

We all dare you, though some people who issue that dare don’t really mean it.

They just want you to do it first so they don’t have to.

Perhaps that’s why when we strip our souls naked some people retreat and scream and call the authorities.

Not because what you did was in any way wrong.

Not even because they were horrified and repulsed by what they saw when you exposed yourself.

They fled and demanded that a stop be put to it because they were terrified that they would be expected to follow your example.

They were afraid that they would be next.

Perhaps this is why some of those who hide behind masks are at their most vicious when one is at their most vulnerable.

They hope to shame these naked souls into putting some damn clothes on.

They chill the conversation so they can feel more comfortable in their numerous layers.

How much harder it would be for them should the atmosphere warm, that they would be left sweating and chafing and yet refusing to expose their skins, their flaws, their scars to the rest of us.

So they swath themselves in wool and tweed and decry our lack of modesty in this our modern age.

We are under no obligation to listen to them.

There are ways to warm ourselves in this still cold world.

Unlike a body, a soul can be both armored and naked, exposed yet invulnerable, unstoppable.

Stand firmly in your sense of self and no one can topple you from your position.

Be flexible enough to move as the occasion requires, and dance to the rhythms of your heart, and the blows will never be close enough to land.

No one is ever free from being criticized by someone out there.

Act, and you will be told by someone that you took the wrong action.

Do nothing, and another will shame you for your apathy.

Therefore, the only voice you can truly rely on is your own.

But how can you be sure the voice you hear in your head is truly your own?

The entire process of learning to function in our society requires that we admit the thoughts of others into our head.

If we are to speak and be heard, we must make room in our heads for words we didn’t invent ourselves.

The heart speaks its own language, and the art of translation is one of the most important skills to master.

But far too many people are told that the translation is incorrect.

Or, in other cases, we deliberately mistranslate, lest the words spoken scandalize everyone within earshot.

We learn the right things to say, even when the right thing to say is so distant from the truth as to be unrecognizable.

And the more the heart is mistranslated and misunderstood, the more reluctant it becomes to even try to be heard in the first place.

This is why silence is a precious commodity, for when we allow it to surround us and just for once let it stand unbroken, the murmur of the heart, the secret language of the self unseen, can be heard.

And this, in turn, is why silence frightens some people, for they are determined to drown out those sounds with the noise of daily living, lest they hear the sounds the heart is making, not the thump of the physical organ but the disappointed sighs of a misunderstood voice.

What does your heart say?

Do you even understand its vocabulary, or have you only been nodding and pretending to understand?

Only you can provide a sufficiently accurate translation.

And yet by seeing the translations of others, we slowly learn how to translate our own.

Do all hearts speak a common language?

I am not certain of that.

Perhaps each heart speaks a unique dialect that can be traced to a common tongue.

(The tongue, perhaps, that spoke the world into its being.)

I still hold out the hope that more of us will learn to listen to our hearts and make the effort to translate what it says into words and deeds that can shape the world into something greater.

And perhaps the key to this is not to wait until the cacophony of false voices, of mistranslations, of The Right Things To Say finally dies down. Perhaps we need to retreat to silence long enough to hear what our hearts have to say and then emerge from that silence to speak what our hearts have told us, speak our truth until all our voices combine and the noise is drowned out by our chorus.

And here is where we can begin it.

It’s too crude a piece for me to want to sell or even scan, but I keep it precariously fastened to the side of my filing cabinet with magnets for now as a reminder of how far I’ve come.

Prints of this work are not available.

The original is not for sale.

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