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 heartbeat 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 silence (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!