I do a lot of what I call detective work — working problems, trying to figure out mysteries, developing ridiculous transitive properties that don’t work, sifting through flimsy clues looking for answers that usually arrive later than I’d like, if at all. I do detective work with my son, who is non-speaking. I do detective work with my dogs. I am always trying to know. But I also do detective work with those who hold the power of language right on their tongues. How often we fail to articulate ourselves so that others can understand us.
When I listened to Amanda Gorman deliver her inaugural poem yesterday, who most certainly did not fail to articulate herself, I was floored — “polished,” “pristine,” “perfect,” and “purpose,” all beating up against one another, and let’s please not forget “To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man,” — Whoo wee! She and her work are stunning. I watched again today, to rehear the words but also to see her face, her languid movements, her poised embrace of the moment, her utter grace. Those things told me as much or more about her than her gorgeous soldier of a poem.
When I take time to look closer, to try to understand what I see and not just what I hear, I can do nothing but gain.
To be understood is to be known. To be known is to never be other. To never be other is to never be foreign, far away, unfamiliar, feared.
Most of us receive an abundance of chances to heal our blunders, even those that have done nothing but exacerbate our misunderstanding of each other. In that way, we save each other over and over as most creatures are essentially forgiving and want, more than anything, to understand and to be understood. What feeling brings more comfort and peace than that? Consider the times you’ve felt misunderstood. It’s hard to sleep with that one banging around in your heart.
I hope I’m lucky enough to be given continued opportunities to look closer, to do my detective work in my own house and beyond it. I hope you are too. May we make the most of them. The moment is upon us.
Sending love everywhere today.