From our silence as newborns, the voice of our parents draws us out of ourselves and into their world of language, laws and logic. Even before school, the ubiquitous television — and now many other media devices — introduces to us the voices of the world and the adverts of desire. Our experience of ourselves is mediated by the voices we hear, in time becoming deeply embedded concepts forming the bulk of our mind's subjectivities.
Indeed, the materialist interpretation of what it is to be human claims there is no ‘ourselves’ before this learning takes place. That we are merely a tabula rasa — a blank slate upon which the ideas of empirical experience are written. The concept of tabula rasa is based on a 17th century empiricist philosophy: that there is nothing in the mind which is not first in the senses. Imagine what 17th century empiricists would think of the sheer cacophony of our 21st century world. Its pervasive noise insinuates itself into our consciousness, becoming a grid through which we interpret the world and ourselves. It is not merely that we make ideas out of our perceptual experiences, but that we accumulate ideas that are thrust upon us from varying external sources — external sources with a vested interest in how we think and what we believe.
As multifarious as the voices of this world are, it is not difficult to see them as one amalgam — ‘the voice’ — the voice ‘out there’, and the voice in my mind. It is incessant and even when I sleep, it does not cease. Have you noticed that, when you wake in the middle of the night, your mind's voice is merrily chatting away? It has its own nonstop rhythm. It is an endless, uncontrollable roller coaster ride.
What is the voice saying to us? In the main, the voice in our head is a reflection of the voices of the world. The voices which tell us we are incomplete in ourselves. That we need the Other, whatever that may be, in order to complete ourselves. That we need success, money, power, fame or the perfect partner in order to be happy. The voice defines us as insufficient, inferior and failing if we do not fulfill the formulae for success or happiness as predefined by the world in which we live. Capitalism, at its core, produces lack and desire. How else could it sell to us that which we do not need? That it is so successful is a testimony to its constant and overpowering level of distraction.
Since the advent of the mobile phone, an arsenal of networking devices have been created. Now we, too, can speak to the world at large. At a glance, we have email, twitter, myspace, blogger, facebook, MSN, meebo, bebo, youtube, soundcloud, stumbleupon and a host of virtual chat rooms and contexts in which unreal things can be purchased with real money — all in the drive to make our voices heard.
But what are we saying? What do our games facilitate? Are they reflections of what we are? Or reflections of whom we believe we want to be?
In the midst of all these voices, I have always been aware of a quieter, less strident voice — a silent voice which speaks with a syntax of longing. As a very young child, I remember asking myself where I was, what I was and why. I never lost sight of either the questioning or the longing of this voice, and though it became increasingly usurped by the louder one as I grew older, it never ceased its silent cry of longing, which none of the products or the people of this world could ever satiate.
That there exists a voice in the midst of all the other voices that addresses this silent and authentic need is nothing short of a life-affirming miracle. This voice spoke — not to my mind, as all the other voices have done and continue to do — but to my inner longing. Prem Rawat’s voice and the sheer poetry of his discourse alerted me to the cry of my heart. He not only authenticated my silent voice, but revealed to me the process by which I could fulfill its longing.
So I have learnt that real freedom means more than freedom of thought. It means freedom from thought — a real break from that roller coaster ride. I can, in fact, know the difference between my innate needs and the manufactured needs of the usurping voice which distracts me.
Prem Rawat once said, “Truth is like a gentleman. When the rowdy crowd comes in, truth steps out.” Also, “when a bunch of fiction walks in, truth leaves.” For me, this is a perfect illustration of the relationship of the voice of the heart and the voice of mind.
Illustration by Sara Shaffer.