Each of us is a universe, with its own physics laws, landscapes, noises, metals, borders, planets, satellites and animal species evolving after their own rules. Like huge solar systems, our paths are influenced by planets revolving elliptically, all called after a bunch of individual myths and places and houses recorded deep down into our personal history. And at the very brim of this great bubble there’s the only device that allows us to connect with the other systems in this galaxy – language. It’s common ground and can be shaped and trained, but it’s never perfect, so in fact rather than a tool it’s a many sided attempt – through gestures and expressions and vibrating and resonating cavities – to go out of our bodies and systems to show somebody else what’s going on in here. My language is fingers willing to touch and to see and to stroke hair and to pull noses.
This high voltage connection requires a huge effort and offers but scant chances of success. And so, to skip our natural laziness and the most peremptory of all laws – economy – a good demon invented for us the ghost of solitude and showed us the way to steer clear of it: through contact, a reciprocal ebb and flow achieved only if you have a good deal of curiosity.
Or, put in layman’s terms… take any two individuals, let’s say Albert and Angela, who on a mundane and superficial level reveal to one another a sufficient quantity of correspondences to strike the match of interest, and strive to accomplish this exchange. They share numerous interests and love to spend time together. But on a closer look, Albert was born right in the middle of a cricket-bursting full-blown Mediterranean summer day, in the country of the deaf. From his earliest days, in fact hours, he understood that he had to scream to have what he needed: because in the country of the deaf, meaning is elusive; it is accumulated by loudness and repetition and dispelled by time passing. Words are feeble midgets that, once uttered, wither in the open air and have to be constantly repeated in order to be valid the next day.
Albert spent all his time learning how to scream louder, say everything harder, and escort all statements with his hands like you’d walk an old cripple across a crowded street. His lungs grew stronger, his chest wider, his voice more powerful, his choice of words precise and effective. The planets revolving in his system were called rhythm, music, dispute, volume, defense, and anything else that could help him to be understood better.
Silence was golden, in Angela’s universe. She came on tiptoe right in the middle of a night blizzard, with the first snow of the year. It snowed so hard that her relatives couldn’t make it to the hospital for two days, leaving her with her mother, protected in a womb of silent, nurturing caresses. All this happened at the other side of an iron curtain, in a quiet and monochrome universe of prefab concrete.
Her parents, failing to create an ebb and flow which would connect their universes, had hoped that she could fill that gap. It didn’t work. So, unable to name the thing that was happening, all they did was linger, in a guilty silence, waiting for something that would build a bridge across the frosty winter spread between them or destroy it completely. This kind of gravity centres produced quite different planets: untrained and unable to say anything, Angela developed monstrous listening capabilities, almost on the verge of divination. She used the language of showing and touching and giving, while waiting all the time for the few words she really needed to hear, that never came.
Albert and Angela would need a glossary at hand each time they speak to each other. But they don’t have one, so a careful fine tuning is their only chance. Let’s see what happens with anger.
ANGER The words Angela produces are scant. Nothing is added: quite on the contrary. It’s hard for her to express, or even discover, what she finds unpleasant. It usually comes in dreams and she’s able to interpret them only after a few days. So it happens that, at the end of a nervous and nightmare-ridden week, she softly says: “You know what you said on Monday about […]? I didn’t quite like it.” She then feels satisfied for having been able to make a point. Obviously, the subtle changes in tone, which she thinks are peremptory and decisive, often escape the listener’s year (let’s not forget that she’s in the country of the deaf). And so she thinks most people around her are striving to provoke her with attitudes she finds vexing. She grows frustrated and gets nervous, eventually developing a sort of unstable anger which is expressed through a hissed “Fine” and a struggle to maintain composure.
The first time Albert was angry at her and told her so, she was completely deafened; it took her three days to recover. Used as he was at not being heard, he had gathered all the strength he had in his lungs and in his deepest voice expressed how hard she had hurt him. He was prepared to exaggerate, so that by the excess he could obtain at least some result. She couldn’t sleep for two days after that.
We could trace such a map of differences with every subsequent notion. But we won’t, because what we care about most is the electric discharge, powerful as a lightning, of a successful connection. But to have that, as I’ve already said, you need curiosity, which is another word for desire.