One who Speaks does not Know.
One who Knows does not Speak.
Discuss. This issue has been rather a preoccupation for me throughout life. Not least because I’m articulate and reasonably persuasive. It took until my mid-thirties though for that articulateness to really come out.
Over the decades I’ve created yardages of verbiage in writing and sound, onstage, radio and video and in groups, so does this make me someone who does not know? Well, it could be true. I could, after all, be twisting your brains in a very nifty way, so that you don’t notice. I might be manipulating you, deluding you.
And there would be truth in it. Not the whole truth, mercifully.
Besides, I find I can’t just rattle off stuff just to fill column inches, sell something or meet a deadline. So I didn’t become a journalist or copywriter, even though I could – I can’t just write stuff to fill space. I find I have to wait until something meaningful and creative comes up, something to really write about. It has to come up and out.
One gift cancer gave me is reduced concern about my career path – a release from the ties of what I believe other people believe about me. Or, as a blogger, a compulsion to write stuff just to retain eyeballs, for fear of losing readers if I don’t. There are times when I go silent. My feeling is that, without originality, my work is second rate – and I’m a Saturnine Virgo and relentlessly self-critical in these things.
But the funny thing is, the more I’ve got used to this, the fewer the quiet times have become – what some call ‘writer’s block’.
There’s an advantage to self-criticism, in the long term – as long as you relax about it as you mature. Since self-critical people set high standards for themselves, they do actually rise to some pretty high standards. Even if, when they get there, they’re still digging away at themselves and running themselves down.
With some of my writing, I go over and over it again and again. And again. Neurotic. What often shocks me, positively, is that I post stuff online that I think is, well, good enough, when readers enjoy and appreciate it in no uncertain terms and it seems to be far better than I’d have guessed! Phew.
I have a retrograde Mercury in Libra that mulls things over a lot, attempting to reach a balanced view. So I go though periods of quietness, mulling and cogitating. Sometimes I might be having an Aspie meltdown, where everything gets terrible tangled, to the point where I’m short-circuited and go into a space of aghast inner blankitude, like a rabbit caught in headlights, a sort of void space out of which, at some point, there suddenly springs a guiding light of an idea and… ping, I’m back – I got it.
Then I’m off again. One of the little gladnesses I’ve had is that I’m a good reserve speaker – someone who can be called in last minute because another speaker dropped out. Give me ten minutes, a mug of tea, and tell me how much time I have, and I’m off. Mercifully, as rather a polymath, I have a number of subjects up my sleeve that I can rattle on about in quite a fired-up way.
I had to learn how to do that, and it broke through when I was about 32. I discovered that, no matter how much I planned my talks, the best were those where, at the beginning, I found I had no idea at all about what to say, even if I’d prepared something. I just had to set aside my fear, take three deep breaths, take in the audience, and start with the first thing that came into my head. Nowadays, it just comes naturally.
I wouldn’t call that channelling. It draws on my own knowledge, experience and character. But there’s something where, if Friends Upstairs want to drop something in, it’s easy for them to do so. Sometimes I get nudged, occasionally jolted. Sometimes they pull the plug on what I thought I was about to talk about, and I launch in deep, straight away, into something that feels like it’s coming out specially for the particular people in the audience. I’m always amazed that, when people tell me the clincher for them, it’s a really wide variety of my utterances that they mention. It’s fascinating.
But at the end of a talk I can feel a bit bereft because I can’t remember what happened – I’m the one that missed it.
So I’m fine about being filmed or recorded, because it helps me know what I’m actually saying to people! Not only this but, sometimes, when I’ve heard a recording afterwards, it’s as if some of the stuff I said was precisely for me – me teaching myself out loud, in public. Other people seem to like it too, which is a relief. So it balances out – Mercury in Libra.
I’m not one who repeats myself too much, and working from notes doesn’t work for me. I often have three or four talking points in reserve, and I cycle around those, but that process is still spontaneous, a wandering, a looping and a returning back to base. These anchor points kinda keep me on track amidst a wide ocean – a Gemini Mooner like me can go off sideways and add too many footnotes, so that people can’t remember what on earth I was talking about.
Part of the reason for this is that it wasn’t on earth. But I have had to learn how to anchor to a few key points, to give my poor audiences a few memorable nuggets to lodge in their brains. Judging by the ramblingness of this piece, I still need to learn it, even at my age.
As a Gemini Mooner, one of the issues I had to learn was this. People remember three things. Repeat: people remember three things. In any talk, book or radio programme, I always try to look for three core points that need bringing through. I might not know how I’ll do it, but I kinda flag them up in my back-brain for covering. If I don’t do this, I go into too much intricacy and people can lose track. It was an interesting talk but they can’t remember what it was about.
What’s changed, since I had cancer 3-4 years ago, is that, more and more, I find myself anchoring back spontaneously to a wellspring inside. I clear my psyche, the process starts up, something comes up and off we go.
This very blog is an example. I was sitting there drinking rose congou tea, contemplating Lao Tzu’s saying: One who Speaks does not Know, and One who Knows does not Speak.
Well, that’s true. But there’s a way round it. The resolution of this dilemma comes spontaneously. Part of the deal is that, when it comes, it’s necessary to get down on it and write it there and then. Because that creative streak doesn’t stay. It’s a momentary thing, and part of the creative process of the universe. It speaks for that moment. If you don’t catch it, like a sailor with the wind, it comes and it’s gone.
So Lao Tzu’s statement is true. I as a voluble person need to take note, repeatedly. Yet it has something to do with the message and the vibe that’s concealed between the lines. It’s that direct mind-to-mind and heart-to-heart communication that hides behind the clattering of expressed words. Something that AI will have difficulty falsifying since AI is imitative, not originative. It doesn’t come from that wellspring.
Up to the 18th-19th Century, it was part of an author’s remit even to use flexible spellings, even on the same page – and that was part of the poesy of prose.
True authors are here to authorise authoritative authenticity. I didn’t go on a creative writing class – I just did the however-many thousand hours and years needed to gain a certain mastery in the craft of wordsmithery. That where those aspects of life that we habitually consider to be problems can become assets in disguise. I’ve been complaining of aloneness in the last two years and, well, it has given me space to create. To do so, it’s necessary to be alone and ‘antisocial’. Life has its strange compensations.
That’s a realisation that particularly comes toward the end of life. Everything has its compensations, its reason for being as it is, or was. Often it’s not at all easy to see how this is, when we’re busy struggling through life’s relentlessly tangled web of attention-seeking demands that present themselves for free on a daily basis. Until, that is, you die.
Then other stuff starts happening and, with luck, you begin to see the real, full, all-round reasons why life needed to be the way it was. Going through this process allows us then to pass through the gate and move on.
Not going through that process tends to make us take a left turn, a quick road back to incarnate familiarity – the hope for chocolate and the fact of blizzards and droughts. We have a strange addiction to being stuck between rocks and hard places. The Council of Nine called this ‘bottlenecking’. It’s the primary reason why Earth’s population has swelled so quickly to, now, over eight billion.
Many of us have repeatedly been forgetting why we came, recycling back into life again without fully working things out. We’ve forgotten that this is a training, an initiation into dense physicality, for the deepening and broadening of the scope of our souls.
But there is the option to go on to other realms and worlds – some familiar, a few of them ‘home territory’, and a lot more that we become ready to encounter by dint of what we have already become.
The Road goes ever on and on. Out from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone. Let others follow, if they can.
There was a cuckoo on the farmhouse roof just now, making quite a cuckoo racket. But the swallows have gone to bed – busy day tomorrow. The crows and jackdaws have mostly dispersed around Penwith for the summer. And a nightjar sometimes haunts my roof late in the night, after the bats have disappeared into the dark.
Paldywan sends love from The Lookout – especially to YOU. Yes, you.
– if you sign up as a ‘follower’, my blog posts will be sent to you by e-mail, whenever they come out
If you wish to find out more about bottlenecking, here’s a podcast: www.palden.co.uk/podcasts/PFB13-210906-SoulEducation.mp3
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