Sometimes after recording a video I end up feeling I completely failed to say the most important parts of what I had planned. How could the very parts that motivated the video in the first place slip through my fingers? And how could I let that happen? Why didn’t I re-take the video?
What I have in mind isn’t just about forgetting to say something, although that can also happen. But sometimes I say something and I still feel as if I haven’t said it. Perhaps the pauses around and between the words were insufficient. Perhaps the emphases were misplaced. The mixture ends up being more like a homogenous salad–more like raw material for an unusually attentive listener–than a well-organized and well-lit presentation.
And where is that mythical being, i.e., the (“unusually”) attentive listener? “Unusual” by virtue of existing alone as an attentive listener, not by being more attentive than the average attentive listener. Perhaps the problem is that I am still operating with a view of my (potential) audience that is somewhat negative, and consequently, that view (that imagined audience) puts me on guard.
An indifferent audience is an “invitation” to be quiet, to fade into the background, although my whole project was about actively encountering the indifferent audience. But the experience differs from what I had anticipated. Talking (and continuing to talk) to someone who is absent, or to someone who is uninterested or inattentive, is an act of defiance. In such a scenario, talking becomes a sign of unrest. One talks and embraces the disquiet of talking. At the same time, talking still implies a somewhat peaceful (non-violent, respectful, etc.) exchange among two sides.
Talking (and continuing to talk) to someone, thus, becomes a sign of both peace and unrest. Every time I begin typing or recording a video, I embrace that peaceful (hopeful?) disquiet. Should I aim to resolve this contradiction or should I maintain it?
I talked about the feeling of not having said something, because that was what I felt after uploading the Joan Didion video yesterday. Toward the end of the video, I read this Walter Benjamin line:
In all mourning there is the deepest inclination to speechlessness, which is infinitely more than the inability or disinclination to communicate.
Is there a relationship between my (imagined) indifferent audience, the implied “invitation” to be quiet, and the sense of failure to have said something? For Didion, wasn’t the loss of John and Quintana, among other things, the loss of an interested–unusually attentive–audience? The loss of two primary witnesses in/of her life? That loss, and the mourning of that loss, grounds the kind of speechlessness Benjamin refers to. Why go on expressing oneself in the absence of an interested audience? It might be a similar absence (of an audience who would bear witness) that invites me or you or others to be quiet.
In the video, I talked about the 4-year-old boy who lost his father in a plane crash and could not grasp that fact. As a result, he was cheerful and behaved as if nothing important had happened. I said: Each of us have within us the perspective of that 4-year-old child, who cannot grasp the fact of loss, who denies the loss rather than coming to terms with it. You come back home from the hospital, after the passing of a loved one, and see their jacket hanging by the entrance door of the house. Oh… there it is… John’s jacket. John is… . The 4-year-old boy is running in circles, with a small toy airplane in his hand.
An important lesson in Didion’s writing is about the difference between knowing superficially with the conscious mind* and knowing with one’s entire being (with one’s heart, for the lack of a better term). The former is easy and quick. But it takes so much more for the heart know something, believe something, come to terms with something. The conscious mind knows that he is gone, but the heart looks at the jacket hanging by the door: “There he is!” The conscious mind says something, but the heart feels speechless and mute.
We learn about the human heart when we read Didion’s books, Blue Nights and The Year of Magical Thinking, as she shows how grief makes the heart visible. She makes her own heart visible shows how we could similarly go about making our own hearts visible, both to ourselves and to each other.