One of my favorite “Would you rather …” questions asks if you’d rather be blind or deaf (not a great choice, granted, but a telling one). Most people immediately answer that they would rather be deaf, but I have always maintained that I would rather go blind. Don’t get me wrong - I’d be devastated if I lost my sight, but I think I’d feel more disconnected from the world if I lost my hearing. Closing my eyes right now I can hear my co-worker’s alt-rock CD playing. I can hear people talking, the hum of fluorescent lights. If I listen harder I can hear the thrum of traffic outside on the street, the Shaolin monks upstairs jumping on the floorboards, the click-click-click of typing at the other end of the office. I open my eyes and imagine what it would feel like to see everything but, instead of the chaotic cacophony I'm used to, hear only silence. That, to me, would be the loneliest feeling I can imagine.
I’m bringing this up because, for the past two days, I have been unable to speak. I have lost my voice completely to laryngitis, so severely that if I try to scream no sound comes out, as though I’m stuck in one of those nightmares. The best I can muster is a gruff cough, and I have to write things down, or perform frantic mime, in order to tell someone something. It has been unspeakably (ha ha) frustrating not to be able to communicate, so much so that I realize how much I take speaking for granted. I think it’s true that many of the most important things in life require no words, but take away my ability to easily communicate with other human beings and suddenly I feel invisibly quarantined. I guess it just makes it all the more clear that, to me, connection is being able to hear and be heard rather than to see and be seen.
Also, you know, I can’t order Chinese food and that really sucks.