A private soliloquy

It comes as a shock when I hear my own voice echo back at me. I am lost in thought, and my thought turns to conversation though I am my only companion, at least I hope I am.

It is mortifying then to discover I am not alone. One of my daughters is within earshot.
‘What? What did you say? Oh mum, you’re talking to yourself.’

Do you talk to yourself?

They say it is a form of madness. I think not. They say it is a sure sign of aging, a sign of solitude,

I do not live a life of solitude, though I am aging. Hopefully, I am not too much mad.

For me a private soliloquy is a practice conversation, rather like testing out how something sounds before saying it to another.

My mother often talked to herself. I overheard her private rants when I was a child. Kooky old thing, I thought.

It is an odd and eerie experience to overhear the conversation of someone nearby who does not realise you are there, and whose words are not meant for your ears, or any one else’s. It is like peering through a keyhole into another person’s mind.

Over dinner last night my husband and I and a friend discussed a recent court case here, one in which the judge has ordered a devout Muslim woman to dispense with her burqa while she gives her testimony. A witness, it seems, must be visible.

Rather than get into the politics of this, the rights and wrongs of people’s freedom to dress as they will, I find myself wondering about what it is like to be dressed in a burqa with only your eyes exposed for visibility.

I begin to imagine it as a secret and safe place. From inside you can poke out your tongue and no one will know. You can raise a two fingered salute and no one can see. You can frown and grimace private insults directed towards the person who stands before you and he is none the wiser. Most body language it seems disappears under the burqa, apart from your stance.

Apparently someone on the radio who argued in support of this woman’s right to dress as she pleased – in an attempt to refute the notion that communication is a two way process, whereby you have to be able to see the other to hear them – commented on the fact that on radio you cannot see the presenter. The presenter too cannot see his audience. But all other people working together in radio land can.

Yesterday I visited the Tooronga Village shopping centre for the first time since it re-opened and there in the middle of the shopping complex outside the shining new Coles supermarket was a radio box in which the radio host and singer, Denis Walter, officiated.

He was holding a series of raffles which he drew regularly but you had to be on site to collect your prize. A woman in black stood in front of the glass booth, held a microphone and called out the name of each winner, ‘first prize a S250.00 Coles voucher to Mollie Hines’, or some such name and Mollie rushed up. Her face looked flushed as if she were embarrassed. There was a scatter of polite clapping from the small audience hoping to win, and the organiser plunged her hand into the barrel again. She had handed Mollie her check and pulled out the next winner of a Coles voucher this time for a lesser amount and so it went on.

I could not stay around to watch the fortunes of my ticket but I cast my eyes towards Denis Walter in his glass box, headphones on. He looked out into the shopping world. I wondered what it must be like. He was talking to himself, in the hope of reaching an imaginary audience. He could not hear us, but we could hear him through his microphone.

For a minute it felt obscene, as of it were a stolen moment. As if I should not see this man from the radio. I should only hear him speak.

We have senses, five of them, and a sixth for food measure, if we are lucky or not, as the case may be. The sixth sense is the one that rises above all others and gives access to secrets. The flush of someone’s cheeks. We can all read one another’s facial gestures, unconsciously. We are attuned to do so from birth.

What about the inscrutable people, those who wear their faces like a mask? Those who hide their feelings as distinct from those, like me, who tend to be like half open books. Half open, I stress, because half the book is closed. It may not appear so, but it is.

I keep asking myself why do I object to the presence of spouses at the family get together that we have organised for the night of 30 October. Why do I want it only to consist of the nine of us?

Is this a benign wish or do I have a sinister agenda, one based on the desire to get to certain of my sisters and my brothers in the absence of partners. Partners are from the present, siblings carry over from the past.

Do I see it as an opportunity to speak of times gone by without the censorship of the past? But censorship there will be. The presence of partners might reinforce this.

I cannot say all the things I want to say, many of which I have yet to articulate even to myself, but some of these thoughts are the thoughts I had as a child, when I could not speak as openly even to my closest siblings as I would have liked even then.

I am fearful at the same time that without spouses the others Who might have a chance to pass judgment on me for all my misdemeanors, especially my younger sister, the one 21 months younger than me, the one with whom I have most ardently competed throughout my childhood, she of greater beauty than I. She whom I once thought all the more desirable. Her teeth were not rotten like mine. She looked like our mother. I took after our father – his long narrow face, his height.

The years have changed all this. Now I too look more like my mother, her aquiline nose, her hooked profile.

If I wore a burqa none of this would be visible. If all nine of us came together and sat around under burqas, might we feel free to speak our minds, or would the event become one of silence, or worse still an event at which we talk out loud to ourselves in the belief that no one else is listening?

Nine soliloquies echo back in a room filled with black hooded bodies.

55 thoughts on “A private soliloquy”

  1. Elisabeth, this is such a wild and crazy post and oh, so still, too. I have read it twice and am struck by so much of its power. The intertwining of the burqa-clad body, the silence and masks and the talking aloud — the siblings and their spouses and what we say and what we don't. Well, I am going back to read it again and muse…

    I don't talk aloud to myself but I do carry on conversations internally with myself and get startled when I realize that I've been doing so for a while and wonder whether or not I've spoken aloud.

  2. Well, I liked that roundabout.

    It's difficult for me to know what I'm thinking, unless I write it down. I tend to not talk aloud, alone, though sometimes I do on my drive to work. But I'll stop if there is a car next to me at the stop light.

    Your potent image of the nine of you sitting around in burqas speaking soliloquies (what an amazing fabric you've woven here!) reminds me of growing up in church. Whenever one of the elders got up to pray, I couldn't help thinking, even as a child, that they were not speaking to God really, but were performing for the congregation. Of course Jesus warned people not to pray on street corners to show off, but no one really paid much attention to that in my church.

    I took an interpersonal communication class once and became conscious of the ways we speak to each other, as you say, without words. Body language, facial expressions. I'm also reminded of the invisible auditions for symphonies, behind a curtain, so that only the instrument and the musicians musicianship, speaks.

    Wonderful post.

  3. Elizabeth – I am quite relieved to hear that you talk to yourself and that I am not alone in this affliction. I hold arguments with myself and sort things out verbally – if anyone comes in while I am doing this they thin I am going ga-ga!I also do verbal shopping lists!
    Regarding the burka issue. I read this too – and the reason the judge gave was that the jurors need to see the woman's face in order to really interpret what she is saying. I suppose there is some point in that.
    I understand that many women in the Muslim world dress in really beautiful Western clothes underneath. That is the point though, isn't it. We cannot see what they are really like.
    My view is that they should be allowed to continue exactly as they wish – we should all be free to do that. My only thought though is that it must be as they wish rather than a male-imposed thing.
    Very thoughtful post, beautifully written – and such a relief to know I am not alone in talking to myself!!

  4. I don’t talk aloud to myself but that’s the beauty of having a pet. I frequently talk to the bird and provide his responses which are usually in a north of England accent which is odd because, unless he was hatched here in the UK, he’s probably Australian. Carrie is going to visit her relatives in America at the end of the month so I must pay attention but I very much doubt whether I’ll say anything meaningful and, since I’m not prone to swearing, even if I get frustrated cooking or something I don’t expect anything more than a few grunts and grrrs. I don’t recall catching either of my parents talking to themselves any time even in later years.

    I get what you mean about the burqa. It must make reading facial expressions and body language very hard but then we all go to some lengths to disguise ourselves even with our siblings. The bottom line is that I cannot put on display all the mes there are at one single time and so I select the me I want to be in front of my brother and sister or perhaps ‘select’ is the wrong word . . . they bring out a certain me: the eldest, the first born. I noticed this especially when my mother died. Both my brother and sister stepped back and allowed me my place. This doesn’t mean they weren’t involved but there was no question who was in charge.

    As regards a woman’s right to dress as she pleases I have no problems with that as long as public decency isn’t an issue and even then if I saw a naked woman wandering around the high street as part of some publicity stunt I personally wouldn’t be offended. If anything I’d be jealous of her ability to shed her inhibitions like that. Me? I’m so self-conscious it’s not true. In that respect I’ve worn a metaphorical burqa all my life. Even online like just now I watch my p’s and q’s; I’m wearing a virtual burqa as we speak.

    I don’t think I’ve ever asked a woman over the phone, “What are you wearing?” You see it on TV and in films all the time. It’s a bit of a cliché but I’ve always been good at dealing with abstracts; I think that’s why I hate books that incorporate lengthy descriptions of people of places – I don’t need them. I rarely think of you in physical terms. I’ve seen a few photos and I know what your face looks like but there are plenty of sites I visit where I have no idea what my host looks like nor do I go out of my way to find out. If I chance upon a picture then fine. It’s not that I’m not affected by beauty because I am – one of the first women I started to correspond with online sent me her photo and I’m telling you, she was a goddess and I told her so – but looks aren’t especially important to me. That’s why my relationship with Carrie has worked better and lasted longer than any other in my life because I got to know the her-on-the-inside before I saw what she looked like on the outside.

    The only events I’ve ever been to that have excluded spouses have been office Christmas dinners but I’ve always considered them an extension of work which I go to without my wife anyway. It does bother me when my daughter visits with her partner not that we have heart-to-hearts with her when we have her to ourselves but when he’s there he becomes her focus and I think I just like a couple of hours where I’m the centre of attention. After that I’m quite happy for him to arrive and cart her off home; a couple of hours is about as much chat as I can tolerate these days.

  5. I have talked to myself for as long as I can remember and it does surprise me if someone comes in and catches me at it! I talk to myself when shopping as well – not long conversations, but passing remarks and self reminders.
    I have heard women say that the burqa, which is worn by a small number of strict Orthodox Jewish women as well, makes the wearer feel safe, secure. I don't think a burqa would enable me to speak my mind any more than I already do.

  6. Elizabeth, you and your gorgeous winding mind. It is early in the morning and I traveled with you but I am not awake enough and can not tell you how each sentence affected me, for each sentence did. And then that last sounded off like a church bell with a world of thought reverberating.

    You surely are someone very special. I think of you there quiet in your living room knitting universes beneath your burqa, and then later you make your way to a lake, climb to a sharpened rise of rock, disrobe, and dive.

    good morning.


  7. I usually only groan out loud or say, "Oh god," but nothing much more than that. And yet, I am glad no one is around to hear me because I am making my pain audible when I rise from a chair or walk across a room.
    This is an amazing post. That last line is a poem.
    The burqa- it allows and forces each woman who wears it to be a mystery within herself. I see freedom there, I see complete imprisonment.
    Somehow, I sense a deep wrongness about it but if a woman has come to depend on the freedom of that prison and feels violated without it, she should be allowed to wear it, I think.
    But it makes me sad that she would want to.

  8. himself talks to himself sometimes – especially when he's happy, I'll hear him giggling to himself in the shower when he's had a good day… I think it's ridiculously cute.
    Interesting points on the burka and the face masks we all wear to some extent, as you say, it's hard to really speak the truths of our own emotions anyway, alot of the time because we don't know what that would sound like.

  9. i live alone, and talk to myself regularly. i also find it to be a way to test out ideas, poems, even photos. how does it sound when i say it out loud? what's the rhythm, the cadence? do the words make sense when hung together?
    i think i have a sense of the safety felt deep inside a burqa. the potential for hiding, tho, disturbs me. our growth is stunted when we hide.
    and the power of that last line brought tears to my eyes.

  10. Thank you for your post. Personally I am tired of the burqa discussion. I know you were not entering into it, you were musing on it. I tend to think that there are some things we should not debate as we cannot understand enough about the difference in the culture. It is not ours to understand.
    You are brave having them all over on the 30th Oct!
    Bet there will be an interesting post that day! This was probably a typo but we still spell cheque with a q in this country. It is so important to make our inevitable merging with America, as slow as possible. Jane

  11. In retrospect, I agree Elizabeth, it is a crazy post, maybe too much so, but I was in a strange mood when I wrote it, which might well be reflected in my rambles.

    Thanks for your kind words, in any case. You often seem to 'get me' even when I don't get myself.

  12. A roundabout is a good way to describe my ramble here, Ruth – a kind way.

    The trouble with roundabouts is that they can be circular, which is one of the things I fear in this forthcoming meeting with my siblings and which might also be part of the reasons I have found it difficult to write about.

    It's interesting, too, that you associate these thoughts with your experience as a child in church. Churches can be one of the most intimidating places in which we might dare to speak. Unless of course we are the 'elders', and appointed to speak.

    Thanks, Ruth.

  13. I was reading Azar Nafisi's 'Reading Lolita in Tehran' on the plane on my recent trip to England, Weaver, and wondered very much about the process of such concealment through dress, though most of the women in this book do not seem to conceal themselves entirely.

    You put it well, I think, the business of needing to be free to choose to dress as we will, but hopefully not under some hidden duress. There are often hidden pressures even in western culture to dress according to certain dictates. None of us are entirely free.

    As for talking to yourself, it occurs to me now that we all do it as babies and toddlers. You hear little ones practise talking to themselves often.

    It probably has its roots therefore, like most things in our early days, and serves a purpose now as it did then. Thanks Weaver.

  14. So far everyone who has commented here so far, Janice, with the exception of one or two, admits to talking out loud to themselves from time to time. It is commonplace.

    We need not feel ashamed, and yet it seems we feel a tad embarrassed when caught out, even in the privacy of our car. That's when I'm most likely to have a private conversation, in my motorized bubble.

    Thanks, Janice of Jablog.

  15. Erin, Woman at a Window, you are too kind. I can imagine you gazing out onto the scene below, perhaps occasionally muttering to yourself but mostly thinking wonderful thoughts that soon translate into even more wonderful writing.

    Thanks for your kind words here on what I consider is not an easy post.

  16. Thanks, Ms Moon. It is an odd association now when I come to think about it more deeply: the burqa and a habit of talking out loud to oneself. They seem contradictory in some way. Perhaps that's one of the reasons the two came together in this post.

    I agree with you, people should feel free to dress as they want/need, but it is sad if they have no choice other than to follow the dictates of others.

  17. Niamh, the idea of someone talking to himself as 'ridiculously cute' cheers me.

    It seems a better way to view the habit than to ponder on a person's sanity or otherwise. After all, there is something innocent about such actions, as if we do not realise that others might be listening in on us as we chatter away to ourselves.

    Thanks, Niamh.

  18. I agree with you, Standing on your Head, our growth is stunted when we hide.

    I, too, read my writing out loud to myself all of the time and I prefer to do it when no one else is listening, unless of course I am presenting my writing to an audience, but not for the purpose of editing.

    Reading your work out loud is the best way to edit, I think.


  19. Jane, I try hard to spell in my own English/Australian way but I do sometimes make mistakes and yes, you're right I did not want to enter into debates about the rights and wrongs of the burqa.

    Clearly there are cultural differences which we might never understand.

    I suppose though it's not a bad thing to imagine something from a different perspective.

    If only we were better equipped to imagine ourselves from a different perspective. To see ourselves the way those who wear the burqua might see us for instance.

    If there could be some dialogue between the different perspectives, some meaningful and respectful dialogue that is, then things might improve.

    That's our aim within my sib-ship, at least it's my aim, but I'm not confident of how it will go.

    Thanks, Jane. I value your thoughtfulness.

  20. You must have been wearing your on- line burqa, Jim because somehow I neglected to approve your comment and it sat in darkness in my inbox until now when I realised that I had neither admitted you into the light nor responded.

    Thanks for your comment here. I suspect your bird might be Australian, why not. we have plenty of birds here that migrate north all the time.

    Now with carrie's going away, howcan you be sure rhthat ou don't talk to yorself. i suspect sometimes we do it unobeserved not only by others but even by ourselves. The words sort if slip out.

    The business of sibling roles I recognise, especially in the oldest. My oldest brother is always the oldest. He sees himself as the leader whenever we meet and he finds it hard to acknowledge that the rest of us are no longer little kids.

    As the sixth in line, I find it frustrating, especially as the second in line, again a brother sometimes tries to compete with the oldest for the right to lead.

    Leadership is meaningful here in Australia at present. We've just endured a woeful election and it looks like we're in for a hung parliament.

    I shan't go on about politics.

    Thanks again, Jim, for wandering around my rambling post with me. I love your comments.

    You take my posts seriously, even more so than me, and it's as if I read something anew in what I wrote after I read your thoughts.

  21. Whoa. . haven't had time to read all your commenters but .. I understand the masks we wear, even in familial siyuations . . you forget, the Burkha is not worn n familial life, just in public. Underneath these women are beautiful, individual, made up . . they can remove their masks when at home. I don't have a problem with them wearing it in public and in Australia it's rare to see a full burkha in Sydney . . I put it up to choice. And fortunately in Australia the women have choice. Not so for their Afghan cousins. I guess if you want to wear a mask of any kind, it's nice to know that it isn't compulsory

  22. elisabeth – what a fascinating piece of thinking here. i talk to myself when i ride my bike. i have two or three hours each summer day riding through beautiful countryside to unpack, reassemble, evaluate, whatever i need to do in order to manage or cope or move on from the various aspects of my life. blogging is very similar. people write comments, but really it's a call and response form of communication, with a space in-between. it's very much like a conversation with and about my self. steven

  23. What a powerful post. I don't talk to myself, but I do value silence. Just a couple of days ago, my wife and I were high up on the hills of Wales (Cardigan coast, we just came back last night) and although we were talking to each other, there were moments of pure silence, where the only sound we heard was the crashing of the waves against the shore and the wind blowing.

    Maybe that was Nature talking to herself. 🙂

    Greetings from London.

  24. I have always written dialogue in my head – what I say, will say, might say, and then what everyone else will say too. Sometimes the old habit creeps back in and I have to remind myself not to have conversations with people who aren't here. A futile attempt at control, I imagine. Not so much out-loud, but then, would I know?

    Whether behind cultural, religious or other curtains, I think we all have ways of cloaking ourselves, to be used when camouflage offers the only sense of comfort. We humans are conflicted on so many levels; wanting to be known and wanting to be hidden, among them.

    A wandering post finds its way to the heart it seeks. When we let it spool out, our readers will be able to follow.

  25. Very good post, Elisabeth.

    I have theory as to why we sometimes talk to ourselves. Unlike the way it's portrayed in comic books, we don't usually think in complete sentences. We think in a mishmash of sounds and pictures. However, when we're remembering what we once said to somebody, or what we'd like to say to somebody, or, if you're a writer, that sentence you want to use, or maybe the thought isn't too abstract and doesn't have a picture to go with it, it's then we think in complete sentences, and since we're more used to talking rather than thinking in such a way, we can't help but move our lips.

    Just a theory. Can't prove it.

  26. I have had a moment or two when I've vocalized my thoughts and found it soothing. I've even spoken to an object ( a plant) and I didn't feel that was crazy. I was alone at the time and just had to personify the beauty. Kids do it all the time when they role play. Seems a normal thing to do.
    The dress code for religions has changed over time. Nuns in habits used to fascinate me when I was little. The long dress of mennonites, the orthodox Jews and the muslims. All expect some "reward' for conforming to their belief and I feel that it is theirs to deal with. I have my own beliefs and they don't ask me to alter my ways. A generous tolerance is so vital to a harmonious way forward.
    I suspect I might be wanting to wear a burka if I found myself in a place where it was better for my well being to do so, out of respect.

  27. I love the way you think and write and if that means talking to yourself, keeping doing it, dear Elisabeth!

    Maybe you and the younger sister could see each other alone, separately?

    I'd love to have some time with my brothers without their partners, to see what we'd talk about. Luckily our memories are happy ones but boys do tend to censor themselves in front of their wives!

  28. Thanks, Baino, I couldn't agree more. Masks may be worn but should not be compulsory.

    Then of course there are all those unknown invisible masks we adopt for self protection, not even knowing when we have put them on. Others might notice, but we don't.

    Politicians wear masks, I think. They'd have to in order to survive. Do they know it? Do we? I wonder.

  29. Thanks, Ropi. You don't talk to yourself, you say, you only mumble. That's good . Presumably you're close enough to your own ears to hear and understand your mumbling. Others might not be so lucky.

  30. I imagine that no one but you can hear when you travel along on your bike, Steven.

    The wind might carry your voice in all directions. And yes, I agree it is rather like the call and response of voices within the blogosphere.

    Thanks, Steven.

  31. I like the idea of nature talking to herself, Cuban.

    And you are so right about the value of silence. Silence is what happens in all the gaps in between our incessant chatter when nature's voice can rise above and insert herself again into our consciousness.

    This has to be one source through which music and poetry are born. thanks, Cuban.

  32. Do I talk to myself? All the time, since there's no-one else here. I talk to the TV too. I'm not at all worried about this, but I might be if the TV starts to answer me.
    This was a really good post. The only thing that bothers me about Burquas is that I have trouble hearing so unconciously rely a little on lip reading. I haven't properly learnt to lip read, but have noticed that if I can't see the lips moving I often can't understand the person.

  33. I wish I had a better ear for dialogue, Marylinn.

    There are some folks who can recapture the majesty of other voices and dialects on the page, which brings whole communities alive. I can't do that. I lose the sound of voices in my head quickly, and find it difficult to get them down onto the page. Therefore I tend to stick with the words themselves for my music.

    I'm glad my rambles didn't bother you too much. It is one way of masking and unmasking myself in quick succession.

    Thanks, Marylinn.

  34. I'm inclined to agree with your theory about why we sometimes speak out loud to ourselves, Kirk : To test out whole sentences against the mishmash of words and ideas that run through our minds.

    Again the practice element comes out, especially for writers.

    I sometimes check out my thoughts Kirk, sometimes try to follow all the seemingly random associations, get them down onto the page and they come in bites as you suggest.

    The business of writing forces them into sentences, but if you try hard you can get the words and ideas out directly without doctoring them into sentences, rather like dreams.

    Thanks, Kirk.

  35. I'm afraid I do too. Mainly rehashing pivotal conversations that could have turned out better or rehearsing future exchanges. Private soliloquy is a great way of putting it.

  36. Your thoughts here remind me of the film, Shirley Valentine, KleisteMotte.

    Did you see it? Shirley talks to the wall.

    It is very effective in the film and the character Shirley makes no apologies for her habit given her monosyllabic husband and absent children.

    I have long speculated on the nature of nuns' habits, given my Catholic upbringing. It's a wonder I did not refer to them in this post as well.

    As I child I imagined that underneath their habits the nuns had robot bodies.

    As far as I was concerned they never ate nor needed to use the toilet. I saw no evidence for this. Beyond their black habits they were truly invisible.

    Thanks, KleinsteMotte.

  37. I was telling my husband tonight about your observation Kath, that your brothers' wives are inclined to protect them in group conversations.

    We started up a conversation with my daughters, one of whom chimed in to say that this happens for both sides of a couple.

    For instance if one of my brothers were to insult me in front of my husband, my husband, too, would rise up to defend me.

    It's predictable. Therefore if we siblings are to speak to one another openly we don't need our spouses anywhere nearby to interfere with our efforts.
    Sometimes protection can get in the way.

    Thanks for your thoughts, Kath.

  38. The hearing aspect had not occurred to me, River, though now that you raise it, this aspect adds to my wondering.

    What do people who need to lip read do when faced with a face that's covered, not just by a burqa but by any other mask that people might put on.

    Talking to the TV is called 'interactive', isn't it, River. Again, I'm struck by a thought about the child hood dimension of talking out loud, though not simply to yourself.

    They encourage children to talk to the TV on Play School the children's program put on here by the Australian broadcasting Commission.

    Thanks, River. It's good to see you here.

  39. Welcome, Litter Lad. I love to meet new people here. I've just checked out your blog, as you probably know by now.

    Don't be shy. We folk who talk to ourselves – and there are many of us it seems – might soon outnumber the silent ones who never bring embarrassment upon themselves.

    They do not participate in this strange activity called blogging, which as Steven pointed out earlier is a sort of call and response type of communication, a sort of talking to oneself in the hope of finding a rejoinder.

    I suspect the silent ones may not have as much fun.

    Thanks, Litter Lad.

  40. I have been saying for a long time now, talking to myself is okay. It is okay to even answer back. It's when there is a third guy in the conversation that things get dicey.

    Of late the aloud part has lessened considerably. I am unsure why this should be so, as I am actually more alone.

  41. hi elisabeth! i totally talk to myself. especially in the car. here in california, we have a hands-free law in effect in regard to talking on cell phones while driving so everyone looks like they're talking to themselves. and maybe they are! maybe, like me, they are using this law to their advantage to have great, heated conversations with themselves while driving. 🙂 ha!

    have you read Persepolis yet? it's more about the veil and shroud than the burqa, but there's a scene in it where she describes becoming, over time, atune to the shift of fabric so that they could pretty much tell what someone looked like under there anyway. body type and weight and curve. it's a very poignant book.

    your last line in this post hits me hard in the heart.

  42. That third guy could be a worry, Christopher, or just a case of a vivid imagination and wonderful acting skills.

    It's interesting though that you find yourself talking out loud to your self less these days in your solitude, but maybe that's it, may be the more alone you are the less you feel a need to practice.

    Who knows? Maybe it's just that there's no one else around to catch you at it.

    Thanks, Christopher.

  43. I'll have to check Persepolis out, Angela. Thanks for the reference. I have't read it yet, but what you say here about a capacity to pick up what lies underneath despite the covering makes sense to me.

    As for talking to yourself in the car, that's probably one of the best places, besides you can imagine your audience in all the other drivers around you.

    Thanks, Angela.

  44. "Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth." -Oscar Wilde, writer (1854-1900)

    Dear Elisabeth – your post makes fascinating reading… it's like walking a labyrinth. Each turn makes sense when we make it, but then we encounter an obstacle and have to rethink our direction, our initial premise, our presumptions… I'm not sure I can add any more to this animated and thought-provoking discussion but I have very much appreciated standing in the room with you and your readers while the subject's been turned around, opened up and put together again.

    The Oscar Wilde quote just landed in my Inbox and I thought I'd copy and paste it here, not because I agree with his comment, mind, but rather because of the questions it raises… I suspect that at the end of most things, we are left with more questions than answers! (which is still good reason to enter into debates!).

    Thank you – as always – for your carefully chosen words, your insights and your invitation to consider the world anew.

    L, Claire

  45. Oh dear Robert, are you surrounded by knuckle-headed folk? I can't believe it. No, you must have been speaking tongue in cheek, aloud to yourself.

    In any case, thanks for letting me know that you're among the ranks of those who talk to themselves.

  46. That's a terrific quote, Claire, though when I first read it I had this urge to challenge it, particularly after I've spent much of today working on my thesis and writing about the nature of autobiography.

    I agree with the idea that there are certain emotional truths available through fiction that are harder to get at in non-fiction, but they are nevertheless achievable.

    Apologies for the labyrinthine nature of this post. Your comment brings to mind a discussion I once had with a friend about the difference between a maze and a labyrinth.

    My friend suggested it all comes down to size, perhaps. Or is it that a maze has a number of possible routes you can follow, a labyrinth only one.

    I think maybe this post is maze like therefore but labyrinth is a much more luscious word.

    Thanks, Claire.

  47. Talking out loud, thinking out loud, thinking… sometimes I think it's all just lonely chatter. Nobody is inside my head except me, and sometimes, the thoughts I say to myself have nothing to do with what's going on around me… and sometimes if I were to verbalize my thoughts the whole room would go silent in shock. Sometimes I think I am behind a burqa, because nobody can hear what I'm thinking.

  48. We all live behind burqas to some extent, Mike. And I'm sure if we could each hear what the other was thinking we would be shocked.

    There's a subtext to all our conversations behind which so much else goes on. We only ever get to skim the surface.

    I also suspect there are many versions of you in that head of yours, competing voices that erupt from time to time.

    We are all so complex.
    Thanks, Mike.

  49. Hi elisabeth I talk to myself from time to time and I feel comfortable with it. I however don't feel comfortable to hide In Holland we had carnival where we all dressed up and some wore masks but I never wanted to for some reason. Wearing a burqa would frighten me. Of course everybody should be able to dress how she wants but it is not always a choice. After reading a thousand splendid suns I often get a knot in my stomach when seeing a burqa

  50. I have been known to talk to myself on occasion, but usually only in short bursts, nothing extensive.

    I had to wear a burqa when I lived in Saudi Arabia. It made me feel like an irrelevant shadow upon the landscape; like my thoughts, ideas and personality did not matter. I was never so happy to dispose of a piece of clothing.

  51. My mother has told me about Carnivale in Holland. She too found it disturbing.

    Hiding behind masks can be a freeing thing to do or it can be dangerous, or perhaps somewhere in between.

    Thanks, Marja.

  52. You're the first person who has talked to me about the experience of actually wearing a burqa, Jane.

    Surely it's different if you wear it to respect another country's customs and dictates rather than from some personal or religious conviction of your own.

    Coming from where I sit, Jane, I can imagine it was a relief for you to be able to take your burqa off at last.

    Thanks, Jane.

  53. Elisabeth, at least you are worth talking to! As for the desire to have a blood relations only, without spouses, I understand that, I think. Perhaps this happens as we age, when we realise more fully how fundamental and basic the blood ties are. More and more, I want to be with my own. To some extent it is a reaction to dealing with step-children who cannot be bothered to use ordinary courtesies and who never evince the slightest interest in me and mine. Perhaps it also has something to do with being one of a large family.
    Burqas to me seem to negate every basic decency and recognition of essential humanity.

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