I am just as deaf as I am blind. The problems of deafness are deeper and more complex, if not more important than those of blindness. Deafness is a much worse misfortune. For it means the loss of the most vital stimulus- the sound of the voice that brings language, sets thoughts astir, and keeps us in the intellectual company of man.
I do strongly feel that among the greatest pieces of luck for high achievement is ordeal. Certain great artists can make out without it, Titian and others, but mostly you need ordeal. My idea is this: the artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him. At that point, he's in business: Beethoven's deafness, Goya's deafness, Milton's blindness, that kind of thing.
I lived through the Fifties in the Midwest when everything that was happening - the repression of homosexuality, for instance, the demonization of the Left, the giggly, soporific ordinariness of adolescence, the stone-deafness to the social injustice all around us - seemed not only unobjectionable but also nonexistent.
Throughout my scientific career, my wife has been my most constant collaborator. Her experimental skill made major contributions to the work; she has eased for me beyond measure the difficulties of communication that accompany deafness; her encouragement and fortitude have been my strongest supports.
The reason is that everyone has trouble accepting the fact that he will disappear unheard of and unnoticed in an indifferent universe, and everyone wants to make himself into a universe of words before it's too late. Once the writer in every individual comes to life (and that time is not far off), we are in for an age of universal deafness and lack of understanding.
Then there's the two of us. This word is far too short for us, it has only four letters, too sparse to fill those deep bare vacuums between the stars that press on us with their deafness. It's not love we don't wish to fall into, but that fear. This word is not enough but it will have to do. It's a single vowel in this metallic silence, a mouth that says O again and again in wonder and pain, a breath, a finger grip on a cliffside. You can hold on or let go.
So long as I confine my activities to social service and the blind, they compliment me extravagantly, calling me 'arch priestess of the sightless,' 'wonder woman,' and a 'modern miracle.' But when it comes to a discussion of poverty, and I maintain that it is the result of wrong economics-that the industrial system under which we live is at the root of much of the physical deafness and blindness in the world-that is a different matter!
I had once believed that we were all masters of our fate--that we could mold our lives into any form we pleased... I had overcome deafness and blindness sufficiently to be happy, and I supposed that anyone could come out victorious if he threw himself valiantly into life's struggle. But as I went more and more about the country I learned that I had spoken with assurance on a subject I knew little about... I learned that the power to rise in the world is not within the reach of everyone.
There are normal times when it is wholly admirable to be steadfast, resolute, unconflicted, and therefore when integrity is unmistakenly a virtue. The person of integrity knows what to do, and does it. But as we have been exploring, there are also times when certainty and single-mindedness indicate something less admirable: a deafness to voices that should be heard or a blindness to aspects of a situation that need to be considered.
Late have I loved you, O beauty ever ancient, ever new. Late have I loved you. You have called to me, and have called out, and have shattered my deafness. You have blazed forth with light and have put my blindness to flight! You have sent forth fragrance, and I have drawn in my breath, and I pant after you. I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst after you. You have touched me, and I have burned for your peace.
I certainly wasn't seeking any degree, the way a college confers a status symbol upon its students. My homemade education gave me, with every additional book that I read, a little bit more sensitivity to the deafness, dumbness and blindness that was afflicting the black race in America. Not long ago, an English writer telephoned me, asking questions. One was, "What's your alma mater?" I told him, "Books.
For this entire walk, my desire had ashamed me, as if my wanting to be kissed that night mitigated the fault of Junior's sudden deafness. I'd been given stacks of reasons to blame myself for an act of violence committed by another. I had blamed my flirting for his subsequent felony. My college taught me: my rape was my shame. Everyone I'd trusted asked only what I might have done to let it happen. In my gut, I'd always believed I'd caused it. I finally questioned it.
There are two parts to the human dilemma. One is the belief that the end justifies the means. That push-button philosophy, that deliberate deafness to suffering, has become the monster in the war machine. The other is the betrayal of the human spirit: the assertion of dogma that closes the mind, and turns a nation, a civilization, into a regiment of ghosts--obedient ghosts or tortured ghosts.
Brimstone: '...I shall smite thee with my fightful blasting wand so that thy teeth shall drop out, thy skin shall wrinkle, thou shalt have boils on thy bottom and be subject to night sweats, ringing in the ears, falling sickness, flaking dandruff, arthritis, lumbago, uncontrollable dribbling, deafness, runny nose, and ingrowing toenails. Amen.
The irresistible proliferation of graphomania shows me that everyone without exception bears a potential writer within him, so that the entire human species has good reason to go down into the streets and shout: we are all writers! for everyone is pained by the thought of disappearing, unheard and unseen, into an indifferent universe, and because of that everyone wants, while there is still time, to turn himself into a universe of words. one morning (and it will be soon), when everyone wakes up as a writer, the age of universal deafness and incomprehension will have arrived.
One of the greatest tragedies in my life is my deafness, for it's been over twenty years now since I've been able to hear notes. When I listen to music it's as if the letters in a text were changing places with one another, rendering the words unintelligible and muddying the lines. I'd consider my old age redeemed if my hearing were to come back, for music would be the gentlest opiate, calming my fears as I move toward death. In any case, I suppose the only chance I have for that kind of miracle involves nothing short of a visit to Lourdes.
Given her deafness, the auditory part of the brain, deprived of its usual input, had started to generate a spontaneous activity of its own, and this took the form of musical hallucinations, mostly musical memories from her earlier life. The brain needed to stay incessantly active, and if it was not getting its usual stimulation... , it would create its own stimulation in the form of hallucinations.
Given her deafness, the auditory part of the brain, deprived of its usual input, had started to generate a spontaneous activity of its own, and this took the form of musical hallucinations, mostly musical memories from her earlier life. The brain needed to stay incessantly active, and if it was not getting its usual stimulation..., it would create its own stimulation in the form of hallucinations.
Poor children live in a particularly dangerous world--an urban world of broken stair railings, of busy streets serving as playgrounds, of lead paint, rats and rat poisons, or a rural world where families do not enjoy the minimal levels of public health accepted as standard for nearly a century. Whether in city or country, this is a world where cavities go unfilled and ear infections threatening permanent deafness go untreated. It is world where even a small child learns to be ashamed of the way he or she lives.
We should face reality and our past mistakes in an honest, adult way. Boasting of glory does not make glory, and singing in the dark does not dispel fear. King Hussein Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error. - Thomas Jefferson We have made mistakes. In our haste to do all things for all people, we did not foresee the full consequences of our actions. And when the people raised their voices, we didn't hear. But our deafness was only a temporary condition, and not an irreversible condition.
Late have I loved Thee, O Lord; and behold, Thou wast within and I without, and there I sought Thee. Thou was with me when I was not with Thee. Thou didst call, and cry, and burst my deafness. Thou didst gleam, and glow, and dispell my blindness. Thou didst touch me, and I burned for Thy peace. For Thyself Thou hast made us, and restless our hearts until in Thee they find their ease. Late have I loved Thee, Thou Beauty ever old and ever new. Thou hast burst my bonds asunder; unto Thee will I offer up an offering of praise.
I have often reflected upon the new vistas that reading opened to me. I knew right there, in prison, that reading had changed forever the course of my life. As I see it today, the ability to read awoke inside me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive. I certainly wasn't seeking any degree, the way a college confers a status symbol upon its students. My home made education gave me, with every additional book that I read, a little bit more sensitivity to the deafness, dumbness, and blindness that was afflicting the black race in America. Not long ago, an English writer telephoned me from London asking questions. One was, 'What's your alma mater?' I told him, 'Books.' You will never catch me with a free fifteen minutes in which I'm not studying something I feel might be able to help the black man.
Beasts bounding through time. Van Gogh writing his brother for paints Hemingway testing his shotgun Celine going broke as a doctor of medicine the impossibility of being human Villon expelled from Paris for being a thief Faulkner drunk in the gutters of his town the impossibility of being human Burroughs killing his wife with a gun Mailer stabbing his the impossibility of being human Maupassant going mad in a rowboat Dostoevsky lined up against a wall to be shot Crane off the back of a boat into the propeller the impossibility Sylvia with her head in the oven like a baked potato Harry Crosby leaping into that Black Sun Lorca murdered in the road by the Spanish troops the impossibility Artaud sitting on a madhouse bench Chatterton drinking rat poison Shakespeare a plagiarist Beethoven with a horn stuck into his head against deafness the impossibility the impossibility Nietzsche gone totally mad the impossibility of being human all too human this breathing in and out out and in these punks these cowards these champions these mad dogs of glory moving this little bit of light toward us impossibly