Alone With My Heartbeat

Last night I had these strange thoughts about deaf people and what language they speak inside their heads when they sleep. These thoughts came about because I too am partially deaf since the removal of a tumour attached to the auditory nerves in my brain about a year and a half ago. Now when I lay on my good ear I don’t hear much. It’s not too bad when you need a little more silence to sleep to. The strange thing is I can hear my Heartbeat3heartbeat a lot more. It feels a little lonely, my heartbeat and I. And that’s when I thought about the deaf. Do they have words forming into conversations with their own selves? Do they wish they could speak to someone outside of their heads in conversation? How lonely are they?

One of my fondest memories of going to Vietnam was having the deaf community join and listen to me speak. They do have sign language. It’s beautiful to watch. Even when the music and singing happens, they too sign to the music and some awkwardly clap to the beat. They were so excitable during my teaching and loved to laugh at my silly jokes. I am sure my gifted sign language translator made me appear more funny than I really was! But what a gift she had to interpret my voice to those who were dead to it physically.

After the service time I just had to meet them and speak to them, but I discovered that I could not truly enter their world in a few minutes. I did notice that this group expressed joy and love amongst themselves. Yet I wonder what it is like when they get caught in our hearing world for long doses of time. Do they experience loneliness in a world that seemingly doesn’t know how to relate or couldn’t care less.

Loneliness, to me, is being in a place where your thoughts are not heard, valued or understood. Its a sense of being enclosed, shut-up and longing for someone to hear your heart. You don’t have to be alone to experience this. Have you ever spent a whole day and not talk once? The silence was almost deafening, right? Often on a long trip in a plane from Bangkok to Canada I would experience long periods of heartbeat2silence (not self-imposed). People on planes simply avoid talking to strangers. So after hours of the protocol of minding my own business it is almost a surprise when I hear my voice again. It’s like relief, I am here! I count! I have a voice!

In coming to Paris I’ve spent hours underground in the Metro. There are  214 kilometres of tunnels. My experiences high above in a plane are repeated below in the underground, rarely an attempt at simple conversation is made. Most people don’t look at each other. We just hide behind a book, an iPhone or earphones. The Metro is full of people, but there is a sense of loneliness when I use it. So I, too, occupy myself by looking at my twitter feed or just wishing the train would hurry and spit me out at my destination. But beyond the superficiality of travel trapped with unfamiliar people, I wonder where the lack of desire to communicate with our fellow beings comes from. Are we that different? Shouldn’t there be more laughter and understanding between us all?

Somehow we’re more comfortable just to remain in our own world rather than look foolish by letting you hear a little of our heart beat. After awhile that sound, though, is such a lonely sound. I want to hear your heartbeat too!



“What Do You See?”

I quickly slipped again into another of the many Catholic Churches of Paris on a weekday. I love that unlike most of the Protestant churches, they keep the doors open for anyone to come and take a look. I often have this compelling to go in, maybe to feel something there, maybe its the ancient history of prayers, tears, community sorrowing and celebrating. Children-All-Nations-These places have been gathering places of great hope for ages. Now Patricia and my daughters, when seeing me dash through the doors of yet another church, must find this a little amusing.  “Do you mind?” I asked Patricia. She didn’t. I walked hurriedly around the outer-court sensing nothing really, but as I passed by one of the last ‘saints,’ a statue of the founding father I presumed, a woman tapped me on the back.

She was about five foot four and maybe 60 years old. She smiled widely pointing to the small cross emblem on the back of my T-shirt and asked in French if I was a believer. I guess she didn’t notice the funny unicorn blazing on the front of my T-shirt! I responded to her smiling face with an affirmative. She then beckoned me to follow and led me to the statue of the priest holding children in his arms.

“Look into his face,” she said. I did. I wondered if at first she thought I looked like the statue with a moustached visage. But I definitely did not! She asked, “What do you see?” I could see her anticipation. After looking again, I responded that the man depicted before us must have loved people, especially children. Her faced glowed at my right answer. She explained to me the virtues of the priest and then wanted to know if I had time to visit other churches in Paris, especially the Miraculous Medallion where the Virgin appeared!

I could have said that I wasn’t Catholic or didn’t believe in Miraculous Medallions. Actually, that didn’t cross my mind as she so graciously was willing to write down all the places I should see and feel God, me a stranger. I simply showed respect to this wonderfully sincere woman and in the end asked if we should pray. “Yes, especially for my children, they have lots of troubles,” she asked. And so for a few moments a tall six-foot-two-accented-man prayed in French for the family of a beautiful white-haired seeker. As I left to go through the doors of that chapel I looked back once more and I saw a glowing smile and wondered, who got more blessed, that woman or me?