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The world as I know it has always been terribly loud, lonely, and confusing. From everywhere come voices, to sell, to persuade, to hurt, to help, to communicate. I, alone in myself, am left to interpret all these messages and respond back using the only tool I possess, my voice.

Language, albeit very useful, is still a crude method of communication. The true thoughts or intentions of a person can never be fully realized by another, because words will always be open to interpretation. The limitation of language lies in improper articulation, that is, there are not separate words for each idea or emotion that could occur to a person. We are left fumbling to interact with the world using inadequate means. This is why I write.

I find that the more mastery I gain over language, the easier it is to communicate my thoughts to others. Frequent writing and reading increases the precision and power of my words. As Berry wrote in his essay, In Defense of Literacy, “We must speak…a language precise and articulate and lively enough to tell the truth about the world as we know it”. We are not, however, born speaking this perfect, articulate language. One cannot learn how to swim if he has never been in water, just as one cannot fully learn and utilize a language to its full potential if he does not submerse himself completely into a world of books, literature, and writing.

Every new word learned, or work of literature devoured opens up inside us a new understanding of the world and of our fellow human beings. The grating and confused noise of voices begins to take a form and organizes itself into something truly beautiful and coherent. Ignorance of literature and language will leave a person trapped in the world lonely, isolated, and forever confused. As our own voice emerges and becomes intelligible to others, the loneliness of the self, the isolation of being an entity separate from all others, lessens. We are able to form a more perfect system of communicating with those around us.

How do I go about creating my own voice then? My tools: a pencil, a paper, and my head, filled with the knowledge of every experience, or book, or work of art I have absorbed. Practice is the key. Like a musical instrument, a person’s voice is not mastered simply or completely. Time, practice, and wisdom will nourish the voice and cause it to grow within the person into something sounding sweeter and more graceful.

MacNeil stated, “{Every person} has a mind programmed with language – from prayer, hymns, verses, jokes, patriotic texts, proverbs, folk sayings, clichés, stories, movies, radio, and television”. Every new experience adds to our collection and creates our voice, therefore, it is necessary to read, and learn, and experience as many things as possible.

One’s voice cannot grow if it is never used. One must write much and often. For this reason, I keep many journals, and write regularly. I have found that over time, my entries have become less awkward and more refined. Writing comes naturally now and it is much easier to express my true thoughts and emotions on paper. For this I am thankful. Writing and expressing myself in this manner provides me with a form of release. I am better able to cope with the worries and stresses of life. Honestly, I cannot imagine how much less sanity I would have if I did not have this release and escape. I could also never fully contemplate what it must be like to be ignorant of language or literature and the freedoms they bring.

“…months passed without my even thinking about being imprisoned. In fact, up to then, I had never been so truly free in my life” (Malcolm X).

I do not want to die. I do not want my cat to die, I do not want my friends to die. I particularly don't want my parents to die.

Nobody does, right? Like the fellow said in Sandman, "Death's a mug's game."

We get closer to death every day we draw breath. It's a fact of life: out with the old, in with the new.

When I was a child, I got to see the effects of aging on many, many elderly relatives. I got to see what years of too much smoke and too much drink does to a person, how it can lock you in a living hell of a slow-rotting corpse of a body for years after you have that crucial first stroke.

I've seen older friends and relatives get carved up like Death's Christmas goose on the surgeon's table as they lose organs and parts riddled with cancer.

But better your spleen or stomach than your mind, that most precious of organs that Death so loves to turn to swiss cheese so you will dance with palsy or cry out at the darkness and wet your bed like a baby. In your second childhood, Death is your true playmate, and It loves you like a cat loves a mouse.

Old age seems a degrading torment designed exclusively to break your body, mind and soul so that you will be glad to go gentle into that good night.

Every time I come home for Christmas, I see my parents' personalities being stripped down, layer by layer, by old age. I fear there will be hardly anything left of them by the time they've left these golden years. Run for the shadows, Mom. Run for the shadows and maybe It won't find you here.


I'd feel better about all of this if I could know there was an afterlife. I believe in something approximating a God, sure. But my god is not a warm and fuzzy, hands-on, personal-relationship-with-Jesus kind of God. I can't buy that a guy like Him would really let all the horrible things that go on every day in this world happen if He existed. Even if He does work in mysterious ways, even if He does weep in Heaven at the sight of the babies left to die in dumpsters, He just doesn't pass muster with Occam's Razor.

My god is a cellular clockwork god, a force to make atoms want to become molecules, molecules want to become crystals, children want to become astronauts and presidents and famous authors. My god is the ambition ingrained in every atom and every cell and every human brain that makes us want to become more and better than what we are. And our eternal foe is not Satan: it's entropy.

And isn't Death the ultimate entropy?

Oh, sure, it's completing the circle of life in that lovely, clean Darwin/Disney sense. But the human experience should be more than just a part of the carbon/water cycle. We amass so much experience and so many ideas and dreams, I am terrified by the thought that all that just goes down the cosmic shithole when we die.

But my fear, in my absence of heavenly faith, is that's exactly what happens. Out like a light, good night. Game over, nothing saved, nothing preserved unless you got some of it down on paper or electrons before your mind becomes death's wet toy.

All that effort, all that living, ultimately wasted.

It can't really be like that, can it? Even my clockwork god wouldn't let that kind of thing happen, would it?

But I've received no sign. No new data to give me faith.

So I write.

I write for other reasons, sure: as an attempt to clarify my own thoughts, for personal amusement, for money, from boredom, rage, lust, joy, sadness, indignation, awe, obsession, all that and more. But at the core of it all, my writing is my own itty-bitty insurance policy against losing everything when my candle finally blows out and I can work and think and laugh no more.

 

Why do I write?

Do I love that delicate soreness in my wrist after I’ve scrawled my thoughts on those once empty pages?

Or do I love manipulating the minds of my readers, controlling their thoughts and emotions with my wordplay?

Or is it that immortality of the written word- that, when my short, pitiful life ends, my essence will carry on in my stories and essays?

Or is it that sense of sanity, in the written word? Is it that ability to give my rapid, ricocheting thoughts some clarity?

I don’t know. I can’t put my finger on it- all that I know is that when my heart hits the paper, when my bloody ink stains that parchment, I am consumed by a feeling like no other. I am whole- I step outside of my broken life, putting on a new self. Yet, that new self isn’t fictional. I don’t pretend to be one of my characters (heaven forbid- I put them through too much). I somehow become the real me, when I pick up my pen.

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