Absurd: derives from the Latin surdus ("deaf, silent, stupid”).
Sometimes when life renders heartbreak, tragedy, or shock we are thrown in to deafening moments. Struck speechless, deaf, or dumb. Such was Maya Angelou’s experience when raped as a child. When she dared to “speak her truth”, her perpetrator ended up dead. Being a child, she interpreted this as witnessing the “power of words”. She literally believed that her words could kill.
Perhaps she was right. Our words do matter. And we should choose them wisely.
Angelou explains how she refused to speak and became a listener. It was as if her whole body became an ear, listening to everything and everybody. She didn’t speak for 2 years. She listened. Everyone thought this absurd. Except her grandmother.
Her grandmother loved, adored, coaxed, and cajoled her. She inspired her to read books and fostered Angelou’s rich internal life. We are all the better for Maya’s learning, teaching, and sharing.
When 9/11 happened, I remember not being able to sing. Many of us could hardly speak. The world went silent. From my Atlanta home, the airport hub of America, the skies were silent. No planes in sight. It was an odd paradox of loving the quiet but hating the reason. I found the only thing I could do to soothe my own soul was to listen deeply and play a bit of Mozart on the piano; The Magdelena Suites I learned as a youth. Simple. Organizing. Structured. I felt absurd in the true sense of the word.
Times in America are trying all of us. A man is on trial to be one of the highest judges of the law in our land. Several women have accused him of sexual misconduct. Whether innocent or guitly, as women, if we don’t speak up about the injustices done to our bodies and safety, then who will?
Perhaps Angelou’s lesson, if possible, is to listen so deeply when shock occurs.
Meanwhile, I will make of my body a Listening Ear. Always listening. And then I will speak. Sing.