I Began the Day in My Sixty-fifth Year

I began the first day in the new year, my sixty-fifth, by having a long conversation with myself—aloud and alone. In a wind house, I suppose the paddy wagon would arrive soon to take me off to where I could be made, with drugs and counseling, better suited for capitalism and American life. But I’m safe; my house is old, ramshackle and unwinnable. So I babble away to myself, always in crisp, parsable sentences, adorned with the sizable word hoard I’ve filed away from reading these thousands of books for well over a half century. I ask myself questions that nobody else has bothered to ask—though they are, I’m convinced, the only important questions: then I answer myself firmly, wisely, and (I hope) with wit, clean thinking, and no trace of indulgent sentiment. I address myself always formally by name, for fear there’s some interloper inside, waiting to fool me. I give myself orders—for work, action, behavior, generally the only orders I bother to follow. If you want to know what I am really like, at bottom, what I think—of you, god, or the state of the world—arrange to hide (very discreetly so early in the morning) and listen. It’s my own Song of Myself, and I will tell you more than Walt Whitman ever did (though not, I’m afraid, so lyrically).

Where does this voice come from? Is there more than one? No, I’m afraid it’s my ordinary voice, the one I use to actually speak to you, or to a thousand people in a room, though now the diction and content are untailored to a particular audience.It’s the voice I had from birth, and used even in the ’40s to interrogate myself in my own bedroom when I was sure my parents were far away, otherwise occupied and couldn’t hear a word of it.What would they have thought of such internal dramas—rather, dialogues—going on in the childish voice of their treasured son? Or maybe they knew, and had such conversations in solitude themselves. Maybe we all do—we owners of consciousness.

This is no soliloquy, but a continual interruption—often saying No or Don’t Be Silly to myself when such measures of verbal negation are called for. It must be aloud; mental dialogue is too easily shaped by longing and practicality. This voice requires currents of air to resist and carry it, to be present in the concrete world. Maybe it’s a form of internal music being composed by an improviser as great as Beethoven was said to be, that Beethoven who, though stone deaf, howled and raged and babbled to himself while he entered into conversation with the patterns of notes banging their way into his brain. Maybe this voice explains why humans even make works of art, rather than sensibly dying with them still inside.
January 2, 2009

Bill Holm The Chain Letter of The Soul


2 Responses

  1. Yes. When people ask me if I was talking to myself, I respond straight- yes. Then they often quip, “well, as long as you don’t answer yourself.” I tell them “of course I answer myself; it would be rude not to.”

    • You know, I have a regular monologue going sometimes. Usually it’s simple pep talk “Come, on, Pat” (I call myself Pat. Everyone else must call me Patrick.)
      Or it’s a to do list. And often it’s “OMG I can’t believe he said that.”

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