Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Do You Have a Voice?

I've been reading an interesting book called The Cluetrain Manifesto. It's basically about the Internet and the Web, and how it's changing the way business is done.

The most interesting statement, which is repeated again and again, is that the Internet and the Web have recreated the ancient marketplace of the street, where buyers and sellers came together in one place to trade. While this is virtual, the authors argue that the ambiance is in many ways the same: a lively, chaotic, fundamentally human place that is essentially fueled by real, authentic voices engaging in conversation.

Aside from the business implications, I am intrigued in this idea of real, authentic voice. And the interaction of voices to create conversation that dispenses with BS and corporate/scholarly/professional persona-speak.

I'm attracted to this idea because I feel like the distortion of language is a real malady of our society, and one that goes far beyond offending the delicately honed sensibilities of English majors like myself.

As the amazing playwrightTom Stoppard wrote in a recent essay:
Communism’s “normality” relied on the distortion of language and my new hero, George Orwell, had long since diagnosed the disease in his own society, so I took this kind of thing very much to heart.

When you lose your voice because you're trained to speak in a certain way, because you're trained to believe that it is essential to be not-you as you engage in your professional and public life, you lose yourself, bit by bit.

I've seen students and co-workers and friends who, if they ever knew how, have totally forgotten how to sound like a soul, how to speak like a unique, spirited individual.

Does this describe you? Do you, probably subconsciously by now, leave your thoughts and emotions and opinions behind, sharing them only (and maybe not even then!) with your spouse or your best friend?

Ask yourself today if you have a voice. Ask yourself if you sound different in some discernible, meaningful way from all the other people you know.

If you don't, it's time for some voice lessons.


erzsebet said...

Part of having an authentic voice is learning how to practice authentic silence. 'Authentic silence' is a form of sitting with oneself with the purpose of analyzing thoughts, feelings, and possible modes of expression. It is not staying silent out of fear of reprisal, a need to fit in, or any other externally induced silence. As such,'authentic silence' is both a choice and a practice. It is the mode of learning what it is you have to say, a knowledge without which, there can be no real voice. For me, the practice of authentic silence is best carried out with pen in hand, writing in my journal. There I am free to think in whatever form I find necessary, regardless of sentence syntax or the pressure of logic and the social conventions for conversation. As I sit in silence, writing, I find that my heart still breaks when I think of a lost friend, and that no matter how much I complain about yard work, every new bloom and tuft of greenery is a joy and affirmation of the continuity of seasons and life. Daily interaction, daily rush can silence these inner thoughts. Although it is possible to let life carry me to avoid pain or inconvenient realization, the resulting numbing stifles the voice and prevents me from knowing who I am and what it is I have to say. To present an authentic self and speak in a real voice, each of us must open to the depths of our self. Silent self-reflection is the path to that authenticity. Out of silence, a voice!


Surind said...

Nice to meet you. I dig your blog, now subscribed. See ya ;)

Tiffany Hamburger said...

@Erzsebet--you're completely right! Silence is a solution so few people consider, but that so many people would benefit from!

@Surind--welcome, and thanks for subscribing! Hope to see you back here soon and participating in the bliss-finding conversations! :-)