I am slowly losing it. I think that is why this memoir is doubly important. First, it is a snippet of a slowly fading experience. A part of a whole; something like the ruins of a civilization that lived centuries ago. Have you ever wondered how the discovery of a foundation buried deep beneath the earth can tell archaeologists so much about a time gone by? How does a pot, one pot, encompass the entire expanse of pottery work that was practiced, experienced, bought and sold, was a part of the everyday of some people who used to live at that place hundreds of years ago? I guess the trick is not to hope for completeness in descriptions; the trick is to hope for points of departure in a description and leave the rest to imagination. Second, I want to remember it before it fades away completely. Did you know that when you try to remember something, you do not think of that actual thing, rather you think of the last time you thought about the thing? It is a continuous ever-expanding spiral of the essence of an experience.
Either way, I want to remember the memory of what it is like to hear. Hear the everyday noise of traffic that passes by the road next to my house, the high pitch of my doorbell, the rustling of leaves, waking up to the irritating sound of my neighbor’s lawnmower on a weekend morning, rain falling on a tin roof, onions frying, the squeaky-ness of the door hinges in my apartment, bird songs, the sound of a flute, and yes, my list is endless. I want to remember everything, write it down, and capture it one way or the other. I am tired of losing the sounds as they fade away… slowly.
How do I record the memories of my slow death? What should I record? I think we have an existential question here because it seems to invite choice. Some sounds are more familiar than others are; some are more precious than others. I have to make a choice, despite the violence of making that choice. How do you capture the essence of hearing? What is it that makes hearing incredibly personal? I think you know one version of this question, but as usual, it is related to Vision. How do you know that the way you look at red is the same way others look at red? How do you know that the way you interpret sound in a rock concert is the same as how others interpret sound in a rock concert? I do not think there is an answer to this question. It is a known unknown. Anyway, I will write some of the sounds down. I want to. Just to be able to remember them.
I remember the first time when the rendition of Kashmir by Zeppelin did not sound like the way it used to in a rock concert. There were parts missing. Initially I figured that it was just a bad cover. Maybe it was just a little too loud. I remember this comment once made on Kashmir,
If you listen to ‘Kashmir’ very loud, it’s just unbelievable. Jimmy Page’s guitar is lyrical and soulful – just beautiful. I do not understand what Robert Plant is saying, though I suppose that is a good thing. I do not know the lyrics. I think they are about hobbits or something.
Nobody understands what Robert Plant is saying in that song, but that doesn’t matter. There are songs in which lyrics do not matter; what matters is the sound of the song. How it moves you and brings you the essence of what Zeppelin were all about. What if you can’t hear parts of that sound? Does the song remain the same? I remember Kashmir, the way it used to be because when I hear it now, I can’t do away with the feeling that something is missing and more often than not, I know what it is. However, this is just the beginning; parts of a song slowly went beyond my ability to comprehend sound, understand it, experience it, revel in it, and, most importantly just listen to it.
“Could you please say that again? If it is possible, in distinct, short, and simple sentences.” I have heard my own voice saying this sentence again and again and again. It is when you break the momentum of a conversation, that you realize how repair works. Complex ideas are made simpler. Articulation becomes difficult. Imagine having a conversation with Derrida in short and simple sentences. I have wondered for a long time now about what would Derrida do if he had to tweet regularly. I have this feeling that now a conversation with me is a constant breaching experiment on how we communicate with each other. Harvey Sacks would be proud! The rules of the conversation become stringent, constraining, exacting, and I think mostly suffocating. I would not like to talk to me; I hope you know what I mean.
You have to face me to be able to speak to me. You can’t look in any other direction because I might not be able to catch what you’re saying. The limits on my ability have to meld with Vision for the conversation to move forward. I can’t hear the words, but I can see them on your lips. Is Vision doing my job now? Well it has to; and every time it helps out, I am left with a reminder of my impending death. It gets more fucked up when the person that I am talking to is eating or chewing gum. Words don’t feel the same. There is something odd about them. I know it, I can feel it, and it used to be so much easier just a couple of months ago. Now, I can’t talk over the phone, but I can still FaceTime. Would you like to talk to me? Most people don’t want to have long conversations with me anymore. Conversation is intermittent, functional; the moments when people let their streams of imagination loose are rare when I am around. I understand their problem and they understand mine. In between us, we have a middle-ground where language becomes functional. Now I realize that when people have a conversation with my person, they are actually having a conversation with me, because I am the only one who just listens without judgement, without rationalization, without needing an explanation. The mind does those things. It processes what I hear, makes sense of it, and puts on layer of experience on top of it. I just listen when you say “Sorry”; “I love you”; “Let’s do something crazy today”; and I always choose to believe you. I listen without filters.
There is this moment when you realize as a sense that you have become useless to the mind and the body. That moment is strangely eerie, bizarre, something that you only know from stories of other people. There is difference between knowing something and experiencing it first-hand. I can never forget the last sound that I ever heard. The low rumbling of a truck at a busy crossroad. I have wondered for a long time if that truck’s rumbling was the last sound that I would have wanted to hear, but there was no choice there. I have experienced the death of choice as I try to find something, anything that I can hear, anything that will allow me to continue doing my job. I cherish that sound as the last time when I could do my job. I love that sound and by love, I mean unending appreciation of something without reason or purpose. It is the sound that I want to hear first; if I ever am able to do my job again. Now, when I think about being able to listen, I remember that sound, only that sound, nothing else matters.
When I first wrote this memoir, I ended it right there, memory of the last sound I heard. It was poetic to me. The low rumbling of a truck. But, I have something more to tell you. I am still here! I am not dead. When you cannot hear anything anymore, no sound can get through to you because I cannot do my job anymore… I am still here! I haven’t gone anywhere. I can’t! My existence is tied to you and your existence is tied to my disability and I will tell you one more thing. When I stopped listening for you, I could then… listen clearly to everything else. There is a world of sounds out there that I cannot tell you about because I am useless to you, but now, I can listen to them. The rhythm of the world as an unending opera. I can hear the trees talk to each other; I can hear the stars on a clear, pitch-dark night; I can hear the universe and the big bang. Sounds flutter; they do not die; they just disappear only to reappear when you pay attention and I have a lot of time to pay attention. Therefore, the moral of this memoir is to listen, and the universe will speak to you and there is no language here; just a sense of togetherness, like threads that hold a rope together. The entire universe is a single organism, living, breathing, and talking, if only you could hear what I listen to now after having slowly faded away.