brief trip landed my family in a
Bostonians. Yet I felt profound distance. For buzzing around their brains (the result
Their table was awash with the sounds of foreign movies where the deepest feelings can be evoked from the shallowest words. Who were they?
I was suddenly overwhelmed with exhaustion and sympathy: How tiring it must be to speak that language all day!
I shared this insight with my beloved, who skillfully replaced my wine glass with an empty one.
But I was onto something.
Drawn initially by the outward expression of exotic
difference —— the sound of their language —— I was captured by an unarticulated desire to be inside their heads. I wanted to experience the intimate connection between word and meaning as they experienced it; to straddle our parallel tracks of consciousness; to be in two places at once.
I was frustrated by the impossibility of that trip and fatigued by the proximity of these creatures, so impossibly close by.
This sort of quest is not unique to me. Inter-personal and inter-species brain transplants are common literary and media fare. Movies and television regularly slap a grid over an off-focus camera to simulate the visual point of view of animate and inanimate creatures. The real voyeur is not outside, looking in, but rather seeks to be inside, looking out. Squint, and you're a wasp.
But such techniques are the cinematic equivalent of a child placing his doll so it will have a good view of the room. It's not that living creatures couldn't have consciousness, but simply that we couldn't experience it. We can only interpret through our own consciousness. We are destined to be outsiders, whether it be of another species, culture, language or person.
felt very much the outsider in
Using non-verbal skills, I recaptured my wine and
focused on my family. As we spoke, I began to feel the soothing umbilical cord of unfathomable connection, akin to the comfort experienced by a young child when the tinkle of
distant adult conversation becomes a blanket of sweet sound. Yet the voices that lulled me spoke plain English. I knew them intimately. I understood their every word. Who were they?
the structure of the atom, even our most intimate communication is largely
defined by empty space —— a silent history of presumed connection. But the core stuff that binds it all is consciousness, that unreachably
personal moment of awareness that laps seductively at the shoreline of the
articulate. That's what
Struggling with the bill, I saw both families checking me out; perhaps wondering. Perhaps not. I didn't really care, so long as I could, even for the smallest moment, see what they saw.
I felt a flush of connectedness and distance, as I decided that our consciousness is a uniqueness we share.
It is what we have in common.
It is what keeps us apart.