Words are how we become,
and strive to remain,
I’m not sure where I first read this quote. On the internet, for sure, stumbling around reading articles about writing and living and, well, striving. I love it because to me it sums up everything about writing and living and politics and poetry in one little sentence.
Words are how we become, and strive to remain, human.
Whenever we’re feeling sad or angry or frustrated or excited, and start babbling and gesturing to get our point across, we get told, Use your words. One of the central things about growing up is learning how to use language to express yourself. It’s one of the central things about life as a human, really – in politics, in mediation, in relationships, in art* – the best way to have a meaningful exchange, especially in absentia, is to use words.
Writing is how I’ve always best expressed myself. I hate confrontation, and I’m only now beginning to admit that the reason for that is that the words dry up. I’m not very articulate when put under pressure, with long silences and short sentences and a total absence of eye contact. In language, we can attempt to express ourselves articulately, succinctly or at length, poetically or simply. Language, in my mind, is what allows us to be what we are, mostly civillised, polite, lawful. One of the biggest stereotypes about teenaged boys is their apparent lack of ability to communicate in words, and yet give them a few years to come into their confidence and we think, what lovely young men, when we hear them speak eloquently about their expereinces.
I’ve been thinking a lot about becoming recently. I read the Simone de Beauvoir quote that goes One is not born, but rather becomes, woman, and in light of all the exposure the transgender community has been having in the news it’s really been rattling around in my head, bouncing off things and provoking half-formed ideas about womanhood and femininity, and generally making a nuisance of itself. But I think the point is, as my parish priest told me when I was seventeen and freaking out about how to decide what I wanted to become when I left school, is that becoming is a series of small choices, one after the other, that can sometimes be traced but often can’t, that lead us to where we are on any given day.
It was a series of small choices that led to my becoming a writer, that led to my flowers-and-skirts-and-superheroes sense of style, that led to my life in Melbourne as it is today. It was a series of small choices that led to me sitting here, right now, with a coffee and my laptop and musing on the meaning of choices and words and becoming. I feel that with each new word I lay down, with each new blog post and snippet of terrible fiction and text message, I become more myself, more the me I strive to be, more human.
*Yes, the visual arts are an excellent way to communicate feeling and movement and to provoke thought. But I’m not really talking about that. I’m talking about making your meaning clear and your relationships flow smoothly.