I believe that the title of today’s post – unlearning to not speak – is a phrase used in an article by Ursula LeGuin.
Dear doubt, old companion, you hold both my hands in yours chafing them lightly as if to warm. But, beneath crumpled papery skin, your glacial muscles tense and slowly your fingers slide around my wrists, snap shut.
You lean in close, counseling
caution, whispering a cold wind
from your throat to mine, stilling
my breath, numbing my tongue.
We sit for hours knee to knee
rigid as startled rabbits.
If for a moment you loosened your grip I could brush back your stray locks, trace the labyrinth timelines carved in your cheek. I could cradle and rock you until no longer afraid, we might tell ourselves new stories, give ourselves new names. - MCK
KINDS OF SILENCE
There are times when silence is helpful and healing.
There are times when silence invites listening.
There are times when silence invites speaking.
There are times when silence is used to punish others.
There are times when silence signals assent and complicity.
There are times when remaining silent poisons your body, mind, spirit.
Audre Lourde, excerpts from “Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” from Sister Outsider:
“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.”
“…what I have regretted most have been my silences. Of what have I ever been afraid?”
“And I began to recognize a source of power within myself that comes from the knowledge that while it is most desirable not to be afraid, learning to put fear into perspective gave me great strength. I was going to die, if not sooner then later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.”
“What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you sicken and die of them, still in silence?”
“And of course I am afraid, because the transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation, and that always seems fraught with danger. [….] …we fear the visibility without which we cannot truly live. [….] And that visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength. Because the machine will try to grind you into dust anyway, whether or not we speak. We can sit in our corners mute forever while our sisters and ourselves are wasted, while our children are distorted and destroyed, while our earth is poisoned; we can sit in our safe corners as mute as bottles, and we will still be no less afraid.”
Giving Tongue to Truth (To Be Read Aloud) If we are to speak in tongues -- tongues of flesh and not yet fire -- do not give me the sympathetic tongue of dog who gently licks slash and abrasion, assuaging that which is meant to wake me. Give me not the slippery tongue of snake, forever tasting, calculating proximity of predator and prey, forked and flickering, prudently testing the air to see which way the wind blows. By no means give me the seductive tip of lover's tongue, the lunge to oblivion. Give me the tongue of a cat -- the rasp, the hooked spines serrated -- separating, capable of scraping fat from bone. The time has come to sound the tocsin, to give a tongue-lashing to the toxin- spewing habits of our days. If the cat's got your tongue, insist she give you hers. The tongue manipulates food for mastication but if what you are being fed proves too hard to swallow: Spit it out. If it is bitter, your tongue tells you: Spit it out. Don't bite your tongue any longer. The hotter it is, the longer a dog's tongue. It is already too hot to control the heat with a soft tongue hung out of your mouth. Out of the mouth of babes.... Give me the tongue of the tiger. - MCK
“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire but to lay siege to it. To deprived it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness–and our ability to tell our own stories.”
— Arundhati Roy
The Earth is calling out to us, inviting us to join the work.
How shall we each proceed?
What silences do we need?
What words do we need?
“To tell the truth is to become beautiful, to begin to love yourself, value yourself. And that is political, in its most profound way.”
— June Jordan, Caribbean-American poet