I was talking to this guy once, he was the type who distrusted everything. He was a trumpet player too, and a pretty good one. Anyway, he started riffing about how we can't really know anything for sure. Specifically, he was speaking of the lack of certainty about transcendant meaning and the existence of an Eternal Other. Since we were speaking in my office, which happened to be in a Christian church at the time, we were referring to this other as God.

I think I may have quoted some scripture at him as a way of quickly fixing his problem, I tended to do that at the time. He said, "Those are just words." And I replied, "But words are vehicles that convey meanings," or maybe that's just what I wish I said.

He responded, "That's what everybody tells me. I talked to the pastor about it too, and he said 'But words are all we got!' "

I have wondered at this conversation many times since. I don't think my trumpeter had any idea how deep a pool of thought he was plunging me into. And he was right too, I think there is a common self-perpetuating illusion of certainty about lots and lots of things. Uncertainty however, is not bad in and of itself. And uncertain is not a bad way to be.

Years later, I'm in a parking lot talking to my friend Joel. We're in the western suburbs of Cleveland, so it is raining, hard. Joel and I are talking about being depressed, which we both are at the time though he knows it and I don't, and he says, "If only I could get my serotonin levels back up to where they once were," or something like that. And I say, "Just pretend this rain is serotonin." I've thought serotonin rain would be a great name for a band ever since, but until you or I form that band, this blog will have to do.

If you've found your browser pointed at this page for whatever reason, welcome. I'll try to keep the rain of words about words coming on a regular basis, and maybe you'll share some of yours. Even if you are not feeling depressed, clinically or otherwise, or it's not raining on you at the moment, maybe we'll help each other.

"I believe that words are strong, that they can overwhelm what we fear when fear seems more awful than life is good." (Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon. 2001 Scribner, New York. p. 30).


Anonymous said...

I'll spread the word.

Eric said...

Hey, thanks for the link (and the kind words!); I've reciprocated with a link on the Gazette.

I'm a Neal Stephenson fan myself (perhaps that's how you stumbled across my humble blog) although I haven't read everything he's written, and a PFR fan (especially their early stuff).

But, sadly, I've never been to Pennsylvania. I trust that won't be a problem.

Jim said...

no problem. I think I linked to your page at the end of a series of links; bouncing around. I thought it was interesting in both content and design. Thanks for the return link.

And no, it's not a problem that you've never been to PA.