Wednesday 17 October 2012

Daily Pages: Voices

(So. Er...hi. I'm back. Sort of. As some of you may know, I got a little bit sick with pneumonia earlier in the year and had a long hiatus in posting on here, made longer by the fact that as the number of days between my last post and what would be my next one increased I felt under more pressure to write something which would (a) get everyone reading up to speed on what's been going down with me over the last several months and (b) rock. I have decided that the only way to keep blogging is to abandon both these strictures: to operate on the assumption that the events of the last few months will gradually become clear to readers as they read over the new entries which will, presumably, refer back to these times, and to abandon any notion of quality control for the time being on the basis that unpoliced content is at least content. To that end, one thing I'll be doing when I don't feel up to writing about anything else is posting thoughts from my daily pages.

The daily pages - usually called morning pages but, y'know, I'm not so much a morning person - is a technique from Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way. I'll be honest - I tend to give this book a little bit of the side-eye because there is a bit of guff about God in it, and I'm always wary of people trying to sneak Jehovah into things by the back door (same reason I'm suspicious of AA). But the pages are a good idea: you sit, you write three pages of whatever comes into your noggin. You don't worry about whether it's any good. You don't worry about whether you'll publish it or not. You just see what happens. Sometimes you get stuff you can mine for poems, sometimes you get memoir, sometimes you get short stories, sometimes you get gibberish and actually sometimes the gibberish is the most fun to read back later. And, sometimes, you get something like the following, which seemed so much like a blog post I figured it was pretty much crying out to be on here. So, here goes.)

Why do people say 'Oh my God'? Is it a subconscious acknowledgement of the wide and varied panoply of faiths whose adherents hum, chant and flagellate their way around the planet? I don't think so. I think the 'my' in the popular exclamation is an assertion of possession, of the speaker's right to define the views of, to speak for, their supposedly omnipotent and omniscient deity.
Consider the contexts in which the phrase is uttered: instances of shock, disbelief, disapproval. This is something God would not approve of, says the speaker, and I know because God is mine. He is my God. And he agrees with me. On everything.

What arrogance!

The things people say, and the voices they say them with, are a source of constant interest to me. Because my voice has never fit in 'round here. Because I spend so much time and effort training my voice, keeping it out of the diaphragm and letting the fluttering spirit of my words roost instead high in the eaves of my throat. And because I work hard on it when I rehearse for gigs, too, when I choose my words when writing and rewrite poems after rehearsal to make them work better with the sound of my voice when I perform them. Because of this, the voices I am surrounded by day in and day out fascinate and appal me. I wish I could give that somewhat cliched combination its usual idiomatic conclusion of 'in equal measure', but that would be a lie. The fact is I am more appalled than fascinated. Because cis people take so little care with their voices. People whose accents have always been accepted find it so easy and pleasurable to just low along with the herd. People who have never written anything more complicated than a shopping list see nothing wrong in speaking in soap-opera cliches or the nauseating therapy-speak of morning talk shows. They talk of 'wanting space' and 'needing closure' and don't notice that they have penned themselves into a metaphorical sheepfold.

It's hard for me to trust the voices of others. I hear too much barely concealed nastiness in so many. So much sneering, so much petulance, so much anger from people who have been given the world and want to complain because they'd prefer it in a different shade of blue. Or the laughter they share, the little confidences, the bonding over kids or football which remind me that the world they would prefer has no room for people like me. It's not that they hate us, exactly, though some do: it's that their ideal world would not include us so that they wouldn't have to think about us. Genocide has its roots in laziness and ignorance as much as in actual hatred. The ultimate refusal of empathy is not active vitriol or even the pathology of the autistic subject, but the erasure of those who are different because you would rather devote cognitive capacity to discussing last night's X-Factor result than to trying to imagine ways in which such difference could be included. Oh, were you watching that? I'm sorry. I didn't see you there.

The voice to which one feels inclined to listen, the voice with which one feels in harmony, is rare. When found, such voices are such a joy to hear that I often just sit back and listen to them, passively looking in on the conversation of others, smiling. But in most contexts I know that trying to find such a voice will take a long time, tiring me out with no certainty of success. So I try my best to tune out the voices around me and find pleasure in silence, or the digitally-mediated melodies of my MP3 player and headphones. I ignore the man at the stop shouting that we're all cunts until I can get on the bus and listen to Arvo Part. I turn my back to the voices in the canteen and occupy myself creating harmonies of word and image on the bounded desert of the page. Their world, their noise, their ignorance, but I can make flimsy, self-contained worlds of my own for what little time they last, to escape them. And that helps. A little. Sometimes.

Sometimes, I just want to shout will the lot of you SHUT THE FUCK UP? through the largest, loudest megaphone in the world.