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Lost Voices

Posted by Priscilla on April 8, 2013

I am thinking about voice today. Your voice. The one that makes you,  YOU.

Three years ago this week, my mom died, and we lost her voice forever.   But she had really lost her voice eight years before when her lungs were crushed in a car accident.  She was still with us in body, in mind, in desires, in fears and dreams, but because we could not hear her physical voice, we could not,  in a real sense, hear her.

Why is voice so important to identity? 

Voice is that God-breathed part of me that entered at my creation and will leave when my spirit separates from my body. Physically, of course, my particular voice is a function of vocal chords, breath, genetics, the language I speak, and possibly even the region of the country I come from.  But my voice is more than the sum of physical parts. Voice carries my soul. My voice is as different from yours as one snowflake is from another.  We can speak and sing “with one voice,” but we never are one voice.

In the Christian scriptures, God is recognized not by his looks, or his resume, or even his claims, but by his voice. So voice is identity. Voice is character. Voice is personal. And voice is power.

Voice is significantly more important than our outward looks, which change, fade, wrinkle, even move according to weight and fashion and whim. Voice is unmistakable. After twenty years, a former student  of mine recognized me with her back turned because she heard my voice.  Not a one of us mistakes a beloved’s voice.  

What happens when voice is lost?

When a loved one dies, the voice is the first thing we can’t remember. It fades like the fog faster than the memory of outward looks or personality quirks. But our voices can be lost to others through means other than actual death. Some of us lose our voices because others crush them:  they control us and tell us what to think, they censor us, they might even imprison us. Some of us lose our voices because of the twists and turns of life: we fall ill, we have accidents, we sink into depression. But some of us lose our voices because we allow ourselves to be silenced.

“The world is too much with us,” wrote William Wordsworth. “Late and Soon/Getting and Spending, we lay waste our powers /Little we see in Nature that is ours/We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon…” 

Is not Wordsworth saying that our frantic rush through life, our grasping for things that may keep us safe has really laid waste to our voices? What else is my “power” but my voice, my very soul?

What does this mean for the writer?

I’m still trying to figure that out. But this I know:  if I have been silenced, I must find a way to regain my voice. For only when I know myself and understand my power, can I give that knowledge and understanding to characters who need their own identity.

What do you think?

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