Why do we write? I sometimes wonder whether reaching out to everybody through online platforms is the same as reaching out to no one. It must be the same with writing a book, I guess. The writer pours their heart on a few pages for all to see, for some to take in, to mean something for a few, to connect with them. But, for the most part, the writer will never know this. It is like the ‘ping’ of a sonar in the middle of the ocean, with no ping back.
I like that ping in submarine films. The quintessential sound of the human need to find another human being. Is anyone there, we ask. “Ping”. It is an ‘I am here’ and also an ‘I am looking for someone else’. Maybe not so much the need for a connection, but the need to know that we are not alone in the universe. Yet, as soon as the submarine finds another submarine, it arms its torpedoes, just in case, and so does the other submarine, just in case too.
So why do we write, then? A shout, or rather a whisper, in the middle of the ocean for everybody to listen. Maybe someone will, maybe not. But still, we feel an urge to externalise it, to let it out, to make it public. Even if no ping comes back, we respond to our need to grope in the dark for a connection. Our instinct urges us to break our isolation, even if it is just to convince ourselves that at least we gave it a try by whispering our truth in the middle of the night, when no one was listening.
All my writings may be considered tasks imposed from within; their source was a fateful compulsion. What I wrote were things that assailed me from within myself. I permitted the spirit that moved me to speak out.Carl G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections
We distil a thread of thought into a few words. And by doing this we constrain it, cutting its many angles into a more specific meaning so that we can load our thoughts on a boat and make them sail. A word contains so much, but it also leaves so much behind. Still, we need a vehicle to express ourselves, to convey a message that maybe not even we understand. I have sometimes cursed language as a limitation to express our thoughts and, especially, our intuitions or emotions. However, I see now that it is thanks to written language that we can keep these thoughts alive and share them. Not only our thoughts, also those of others before us.
The way I am and the way I write are a unity. All my ideas and all my endeavours are myself. Thus the ‘autobiography’ is merely the dot on the i.Carl G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections
I find it interesting when people seem to be so sure of what they say. Are they? The older I get, the more uncertain I am about anything. Unlearning, dislodging the foundations of my beliefs, being open to ideas other than my own, is more a blessing than an invasion, contrary to what I once feared. Still, I can’t see myself teaching or even informing others about anything. At best, I wish my words would stir their own thoughts in them. Only we can find our own answers. Stirring is the best we can do for others.
Why, then, do we write? It is possibly not just to convey a message. In fact, the message may be irrelevant in the end. Just a noise, a ping, in the middle of the ocean. If we never heard another ping coming back, would we keep writing? We probably would.