Elizabeth Faris

The Dress of Thought

Just as our physical bodies house our intangible selves, so our words lend structure to our ideas. Until such time as we speak, put pen to paper, or apply our digits to the keyboard, our thoughts remain nothing more than restless potential confined to the closet of our mind.

To liberate them, we have to take them out and put them on. And this we do, in patterns of articulation as intricate as we are, tailored and woven with the threads of ages, in dazzling testimony to that faculty of self-consciousness that distinguishes us as human beings. It’s our singular capacity to recognize in ourselves the dual nature of existence that allows us to evolve modes of communication in equal homage to the subjective and objective experience.

For what are we but protagonists faced with the conundrum of physicality, cast into the potential for plot and cloaked in language with which to fashion a script? And what part is there for us to play but that of the ‘other’ projected by our secret self, even as we stand to watch it bluff and blunder its way across the terrestrial stage? Each line we utter, like every pose we strike, is bound, by instinct and affiliation, to be both an expression and a reflection of our dynamic, plot-resolving essence. Likewise, all aspects of our language are mere restatements of the challenge of corporeality that defines us, right down to that fundamental factor we call ‘sentence’: an action or state of being, and an entity in performance thereof. ‘Dogs bark’, ‘clouds part’, ‘children play’, ‘time flies’, ‘love heals’. What are these but variations on the pivotal theme, ‘I am’? And what are the content words that comprise them but echoes of the substance of life itself?

Yet no matter how sophisticated our rhetorical ploys, they are never really more than the accessories we don in the hope of rendering our part in the daily drama that much more convincing. We may flaunt them in layers of pomp and circumstance or try to hide within their specious folds, but they can never give us refuge from the niggling quandary of ourselves. For at the end of the day, we are, each of us, stripped naked of the words we wear, only to succumb to that intangible called ‘sleep’. Thus, it’s dreams that have the final say. Advising us in tongues that mock our worldly notions of reason, they thresh our reality out of recognition, shuffle the chaff from the wheat, then serve it back to us in the morning in morsels of cryptic wisdom to do with what we will.

Carl Jung once wrote that “man’s task is to become conscious of the contents that press upward from the unconscious.” His words are fitting, indeed, in light of the ultimate conundrum, the mystery of “I am”. Thus, it is those who write with purest intent who write to know themselves.