Dashiki Dialogues: Dressed up in a dashiki as a parting shot

2014-08-04 13:45

‘When words leave off, music begins,” wrote German poet Heinrich Heine.

By this I imagine he meant to say where speech fails in articulating the contents of our souls, art can be relied on to carry the task of communicating. Sometimes, a scream is enough to?point out the meaning we wish to convey; sometimes a crack of laughter will do.

Often, while driving with a significant other, I find the best way to say what I feel is to just play her a song and keep quiet. I believe that in this way, the poetry of song manages to be clearer than my words, which would be muddled by the emotions of the moment.

There’s always some kind of obstacle that infects our intended messages. In the end, what is understood is at the mercy of these obstacles.

In other less intimate instances, the things that interfere with meaning are less insidious. Think of journalists who work in fear of the arrest of a child and who hold back their thoughts for fear of parental reprisal.

What we think we know about people, at least from what they’ve said and done, is a version mediated and shaped by the obstacles we deal with each day. In 2011 you, dear reader, and I began a weekly conversation through this column.

I’ve spent this week wondering whether these letters have brought us closer to knowing each other better as partners in the game of exchanging and sharing meaning.

It’s a question I’m afraid we may never know the answers to. But we shall continue attempting to make ourselves clearer.

Where we feel it a tad inadequate, we shall call on music or poetry to begin.

Greek poet Constantine P Cavafy has also dealt with this dilemma. The result was a poem called Hidden Things.

He writes: “Let them not seek to discover who I was // from all that I have done and said. // An obstacle was there that transformed // the deeds and the manner of my life. // An obstacle was there that stopped me // many times when I was about to speak. // Only from my most imperceptible deeds // and my most covert writings // from these alone will they understand me // But perhaps it isn’t worth exerting // such care and such effort for them to know me. // Later, in the more perfect society, // surely some other person created like me // will appear and act freely.”

In this way, I bid you farewell as this is the last of our dialogue dressed in this dashiki.

Until we read again...

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