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On Conveyance and Connection

December 18, 2011

Once upon a time, Yann Martel visited the office where I was interning. A toast to Beatrice & Virgil was followed by a book signing exclusively for the staff at the publishing house. I was not exceedingly nervous or jittery, but the weight of the occasion pressed upon me: how do I convey to this man, in the space of the five seconds he took to sign my book, what it was like for me to read Life of Pi? That that book came to me during a time of severe spiritual drought and emotional isolation, that it kept me company for some long evenings of my first Canadian winter, that its difficult ending was incredibly self affirming to me about where faith and the story-telling experience intersect?

Of course I didn’t say all that. He took my book, asked me my name, and as he did so I managed to squeak something out about the life-affirming bit. A polite smile and nod, and his attention shifted to the next person.

In another more recent experience, I saw a scholar deliver a brilliant talk about being Muslim women in today’s age in a manner that pierced me, that recognized and gave meaning to the fact that I once tried to work in publishing, that suggested that perhaps the journey is not over yet. After the talk, she was inundated by members of the audience, and once her attention was finally on me, I forced something out that tried to do justice to what her speech had done for me. She nodded, still in a bit of a daze from the last woman who had tackled her, and before getting dragged away by the event coordinator, managed to say that she was glad to hear it.

These people didn’t mean to disregard or skim over what I was trying to convey. They just had their hands full, their minds full. Their cup overfloweth, and they are cognizant of and grateful for it.

Knowing all of this doesn’t at all change the despondency that comes from not being able to connect or reach those people in the windows of time that were presented to me.

It’s not about having heroes and expectations about their enthusiasm for my enthusiasm. It’s about the greater issue of how a person can only communicate so much to another, a phenomenon that gets especially pronounced when the parameters of time, space, and the connection of speaker/listener are more definite.

Sometimes I think that heaven is free, unfettered communication, when everything one wants to share and express to another flows freely and is received in its wholesome, original form without judgment or background noise to drown out the message.

Next time something like this happens, I’ll try not to be sad about the confines of worldly existence. I’ll try not to fret about the fact that the person really didn’t get what I was saying. I’ll convey what I can. The rest, I suppose, I’ll just convert into duaas and good vibes that hopefully turn into blessings. They may not need my validation, but if there’s a way I can give something else, something they need, so be it.

I’ll do that, and I’ll dream of a heaven that transcends our conception of connection.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 18, 2011 7:50 pm

    You should read Jose Saramago, he talks about this all the time!

    “we have an odd relationship with words. we learn a few when we are small, throughout out lives we collect others through education, conversation, our contact with books, and yet, in comparison, there are only a tiny number about whose meaning, sense, and denotation we would have absolutely no doubts if, one day, we were to ask ourselves seriously what they meant. thus we affirm and deny, thus we convince and are convinced, thus we argue, deduce, and conclude, wandering fearlessly over the surface of concepts about which we have only the vaguest of ideas, and, despite the false air of confidence that we generally affect as we feel our way along the road in the verbal darkness, we manage, more or less, to understand each other and even, sometimes, to find each other.”

  2. December 21, 2011 4:14 pm

    Ah such a great post, really resonates. It’s always so nerve-wracking for me meeting authors that I love and it’s so hard to get my point across. One favorite author I was left feeling she just didn’t care as she talked only to another person who cut in line and didn’t even say a word to me beside asking my name. It’s hard to remember that life interferes and it’s not necessarily that the author / person doesn’t care!

    • December 25, 2011 8:58 pm

      Oh man, not a good experience 😐 Exactly, the authors can’t be blamed: they simply cannot engage completely with every reader who loves her work.

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