Sunday, a day of rest, well for part of the day anyway. I did do some gardening in the morning, but it was a break from writing – except for this blog post. Where did these exceptions come from to deprive me of my relaxation?
I did do some reflection too. Why, when I speak, can’t my brain find the words that I want to say? I never used to have that difficulty. I can usually choose the words I want when I’m writing – and, these days – I’m sure that I can write as least as fast as I can speak. I don’t have any difficulty understanding the words that I read. They are definitely the words that I want to use when I’m talking to someone – trying to join in a conversation, or to ask for something. But I’m finding it more and more difficult to understand the speech of others at the speed that they speak. Are people speaking faster now?
It must be one of these age-related things – like my back which won’t straighten up when I get out of bed, or my hip that complains when I want to turn over in bed. If that’s what it is, it sucks. Being able to express myself orally has always been a part of me – like my hand – and I feel handicapped. I’m only in my late seventies and that doesn’t seem any age these days when I see ninety year olds paragliding or running marathons..
But my brain seems to fog over when I seek the correct words to say. Thank God that I can still read and write. Reading has always been one of my greatest joys in life. From being a small child I loved books and comics. My favourite Christmas presents were books. My wife laughs at me still. She says that she’s thinking of having words tattooed on her forehead to stand a better chance of me looking at her. An exaggeration! She laughed, when, on holiday in Switzerland, I walked away from her to read a steamer timetable – in German (which I don’t understand anyway). I read labels on bottles and tins if there’s nothing else handy.
It’s reading that makes me want to write. I’ll never be a great writer, but seeing something that I’ve thought, written on a page, brings a lot of pleasure – even if nobody ever reads it. But I love to read something that’s been written well. There are lots of examples. I can read over and over the argument in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ between Eliza and Lady Catherine de Bourgh. The Bible also yields some wonderful pieces of writing, whether it’s Paul’s Epistle13 to the Corinthians about love, or John’s Gospel account of the woman taken in adultery. While angry scribes and Pharisees try to get Jesus to agree that the woman be stoned, Jesus kneels and writes in the dust, before inviting any of her accusers who is without sin to cast the first stone. One by one they leave and Jesus refuses to condemn her. That has to have been an eye witness account. A mere few words but the meaning is so powerful and so easily seen with the mind’s eye.
Words help us to reflect: what would our reflective thoughts be without them. Until our minds can encapsulate our thoughts, using a vocabulary and grammar of words, we cannot convert them into action of any type. We would be powerless to persuade others or to defend ourselves. I can read words and write them, but inability to conjure the words stored in my brain, into a form that allows me to speak them coherently, is a form of disability that I fear greatly as I age. I now understand something of the frustration people with Alzheimers or stroke-caused dysphasia must feel.
Relaxing gives me time to think and reflect. Perhaps I should just sit and think more. But I remember Bacon’s quote – which I use on my About page:
“Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man and writing an exact man.“
Unless I engage actively in conversation, I cannot be a ‘ready man’ – but unless I have the toolbag of words to speak, my capacity for active converse is crippled.
The photo that I have chosen today is of my daughter’s dog, Ted – a Japanese Spitz – sleeping on our hearth. He can relax on any day of the week: most of any day of the week, but can he think? If he can, what does he use for words? If he has a doggy language, his ability is also limited to a few types of incoherent barking. Ted, you and I are growing more alike by the day. Woof woof!
I took this photo on a smartphone and I can find no exif data.