Why do we write?
Not in the all-inclusive sense, as in “why do we have written text?” because there are obvious matters of practicality there. We need to communicate to survive, and writing is one of those methods. That is a given.
But beyond raw, sheer practicality, why does anyone ever write? Writing for any other reason than practicality sometimes feels like that voicemail you get from a friend that goes on for six and a half minutes about all the possible reasons for why you may not be answering your phone, and the myriad of options that await you in how you may choose to return this persons annoying attempt at communication.
When all you really need to say is “ It’s Bob. Call me.”
My little brother has a learning disability, and his cognitive development has taken just a bit longer than most everyone else his age at this point, and at eleven years old, that can be downright terrifying. He’s really quite brilliant though, and has the most astonishing imagination.
One year for his birthday I bought him these semi-ghetto pair of in-line skates. I loved in-line skating, and he had always wanted a pair of his own. He obviously was already aware of the true “babe catching” nature of these fine recreational items.
As we stumbled around our block on his new hot set of wheels, he went on and on about anything and everything that came to his mind. “Wouldn’t it be weird if grass ran on batteries?” he said once. I cheered on his ideas as if he had just solved the issue of global greed in our world, and he would smile as he attempted to not crack his head open on the pavement. “Wouldn’t it be weird if you had to be somewhere in ten minutes, and the stop sign said ‘Stop Here For Fifteen?’”. I agreed that that would be utterly obnoxious, and that I’d probably just ignore a sign like that.
He went on for as long as we were out there, recounting every exiguous muscle movement from his favorite ridiculous anime TV show, listing every great idea that his little genius brain had come up with, and loving every minute of it. There was something beautifully inspiring by how freely he spoke. At the end of our twenty-minute excursion however, he looked as if he had walked into an underground Crypts meeting wearing the wrong colors (which is what we call a “gang” for those of you who aren’t urbanely inclined). The poor kid must’ve fallen over 30 times, but that smile never left his face.
We went inside, made some ridiculous comment about our inherent manliness, and walked proudly into the living room. About a half an hour later, I remember him walking into the kitchen where he was trying to explain something to my mom. She wasn’t understanding exactly what he was trying to say, and he was growing more irritated by the second. Eventually in a frustrated outburst, he simply yelled, threw up his arms, and stormed off, because his point was obviously not being made otherwise.
I think a lot of times we are like little kids, trying so desperately to be understood, but finding it impossible and exasperating in the end. We want to be known, in the deepest sense, but often find ourselves throwing up our hands in frustration when people can’t seem to understand us.
This so often cripples us from creating, from singing, from dancing, from serving, from offering a bit of ourselves as an act of our humanity because I believe that so many of us are scared 7 year olds, afraid that ultimately the world won’t be able to understand anyway, so why waste the breathe? I suspect that we weren’t always scared, but something along the way has crippled us.
But intimacy demands defenselessness.
That’s probably why we tolerate those six minute long voicemails, especially from the ones we love. Because even the sheer struggle of communication from someone we care deeply about can be the sweetest poetry to a tired soul. We don’t mind the stutters, the pointless digressions, or the thirteen different ways to hang up the phone because I think that somehow we are deeply aware of the tremendous beauty that is found in our awkwardness.
That is why I believe that communication and communion are so closely linked. So often we assume that if we share the same living space with another person, that we are in fact experiencing “community” or family, when often that is not the case. Often our proximity has little or nothing to do with the position of our heart, and we’ve become incredibly talented at keeping those two apart.