Write It Out: Instruction Video
“It wasn’t the principal’s fault that she didn’t understand. Principal Mooney had been working at the junior high school for almost forty years and was close to retirement, and while she’d always prided herself on being a good communicator, recently she was finding her young students increasingly hard to comprehend. She didn’t know who they were anymore. Their bodies looked more or less the same, but their minds had been replaced by what seemed like an alien cognition. Now, she realized she was staring at the boy, and she caught herself.
“I’m afraid I’m not following, dear. Can you explain?”
Benny sighed, and as the air left his lungs, he seemed to grow smaller. When he spoke, his words were so quiet, the principal had to lean in even closer to catch them.
“It didn’t mean to kill the bird.”
The voices were still new to him, and he’d never tried to speak for them before. He didn’t realize how hard it would be.
“It used to be sand,” he said. “It remembers being sand. It remembers the birds, the way their feet felt, walking. Making little tracks. It never wanted to be glass. It never wanted to be sneakily transparent. It likes birds, likes watching them from the window, so it was crying. I shouldn’t have hit it, but I needed it to stop.” He glanced up then at the old woman’s face that was creased all over with a hundred million lines of worry and confusion. “Forget it.”
Was Benny right about the glass remembering itself before it was made molten? As sand, could it have felt the tickle of birds’ feet, or is this a problem of language and translation? Benny had only the most rudimentary eighth-grade vocabulary to work with, but he was doing his best to translate the Umwelt of things into words. It’s no wonder he failed. The greatest philosophers in history have tried and failed, too. This is a problem that books are quite familiar with.
Human language is a clumsy tool. People have such a hard time understanding each other, so how can you even begin to imagine the subjectivities of animals and insects and plants, never mind pebbles and sand? Bound as you are by your senses — so blunt and yet so beautiful — it’s impossible for you to imagine that the myriad beings you dismiss as insentient might have inner lives, too. Books are in an odd position, caught halfway in between. We are sensible, if not sentient. We are semi-living.”
A seed: something that has within itself the potential to be something so much greater than the sum of all of its parts (my definition). This book by Ruth Ozeki is a kind of seed to me – it is rich with creativity and new ideas, and with different ways of looking at things, and people. I’m so inspired by her writing, it feels as if something has been planted within me. I’ll tend this creative seed carefully and lovingly, and see how it grows. Thank you, Ruth Ozeki!
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