9:26 am feet on the desk, coffee cup handy, keyboard on my lap---- morning light casting a pleasant glow---- good way to start the day. Been thinking 'bout developing voice, or finding voice might be more accurate. A writer's voice should be authentic, shouldn't be a trumpet for some cause. Are some people born with the courage to stand up and speak their mind, or is that trait nurtured by the right environment? Stand up, speak, write, proclaim, question: all that kind of activity stirs the pot, the pot of contentment and stability, the pot of appeasement. This musing led me to remember a story we read in grade school, maybe the 4th or 5th grade, called A Man Without a Country. I remember the illustration for that story in our reader: a young hearty man looking longingly at a shore, a shore where he was never to set foot. From what I remember this man had uttered words of disloyalty to the new brand new United States of America--- I do not recall what he was supposed to have said, but the words, the words, were considered treasonous. His punishment was to board a ship and sail the waters of the world, never allowed to set foot on any soil. Any soil. He was permanently adrift, rootless, homeless, friendless.
We had been studying the American Revolution at the time of reading this story, so my young brain was cast in confusion. On the one hand we were studying heroes who used words to incite the people to Revolution, but once the Revolution was won, the man in this story could not use his voice to proclaim his opposition. It's been a long time since I read this work, but the diptych of the Glorious American Revolution side by side with this cautionary tale to youngsters to not take their opinions, their voices, their words, too far, has stayed with me through the years. And taking one's voice too far, of course, will be decided by whoever happens to hold the power.
The threat of being cast off has quite a chilling effect not only on the words spoken, but the thoughts pursued, the dare to color outside the lines kinds of thought, the whys, the what ifs.
Why am I thinking about a story I read so many years ago when I tackle the problem of voice in writing? I think, dare I say, I think that cautionary tale worked on me so long ago, and all these years since I have been trying to find a way to speak my mind--- whether in writing or out loud--- and still have a place to call home. At some point, though, I believe, we must be willing to join that man sailing around the world getting no closer than a port to plant our feet. And that takes a different kind of courage.