Speech and Silence

I had a nightmare last week that I’d been cursed, twice. The first time, the counter-work fixed it. The second, Yoyo woke me up before I was able to do anything, crawling up to me on the bed to lie by my side as if I would forget her breakfast if she wasn’t the first thing I saw upon waking. I lay half-asleep, in some sanctuary to Apollon or another God while the covers weighed down on my chest. Yoyo purred. Soft light came through the window, the hue before the sun has risen in earnest.

The second curse was a curse to not be able to think, write, or speak in words. (I don’t remember the first, and it doesn’t matter. This entire dream sequence was very Harry Potter.) I was too far out of the dream to resolve it there. The nightmare left a pit in my stomach. I did some things while praying that morning to address the dream, but continued thinking about it later and have been thinking about it for days.

There are several Delphic Maxims that relate to silence. 36, εὔφημος ἴσθι, be religiously silent/speak auspiciously. 82, γλῶτταν ἴσχε, restrain the tongue. 115, εὐφημίαν ἄσκει, exercise silence/practice auspicious speech. In The Oracles of Apollo, Opsopaus stresses the religious nature of 36 and 115, with emphasis on making sure communication is correct and in alignment with the Gods — and communication involves many things, including body language and gesture, gaze, words, and even a simple sigh or click of the tongue. While 82 has a broader and more secular meaning, Opsopaus relates it to something Iamblichus interpreted from the Pythagoreans, where “the job of wisdom is to convert discursive reason from external expression of thoughts (jabbering) to inward contemplation of the Ideas” (p. 198). And, of course, there is also what Proclus wrote in the Parmenides commentary about, after deciding one should communicate something, how not everything is or could be for everyone’s ears. Outside of Hellenic sources, Google decided that I needed this video in my YouTube recommendations, and the mantra is lovely.

Three strands have persisted — the first, that I would allow myself to come into friction with people about whom I’d have an anxiety nightmare regarding cursing, the second, that the dream truly did upset me because words are my matter, to quote a title of an essay collection by Le Guin. I don’t have any hobbies or professional skills that do not involve words. Last year at some point, I was wondering if I should get a hands-on craftsy hobby, and the only one I could think of was calligraphy.

The third strand was a bit longer, spun from the second, running in the back of my mind when meditation focus dissolved into humming light, when I thought about Acts of Speech, and on breathing through my resolve not to check Twitter until next Wednesday even though my danger sense is telling me that something awful may have happened in my mentions and I’m blissfully unaware of it. Why am I being motivated to check something by dread and not excitement? This is not a good sign. Trust, integrity, and justice have become so frayed in modern life. (One of the maxims I received in my weekly divination, 71, ὁμοίοις χρῶ, is a mess to contemplate given all of this.)

Auspicious speech is praying, and praying for the right things, and reaching for the Good. Maybe the anxiety dream means that’s all that I should do, at least for now, and keep myself to this blog. Otherwise, I would rather have the strong late-spring light and the sense of wonder when looking out my window at how large the trees’ leaves have grown. I would rather have Yoyo waking me up in the mornings, purring sweetly, sixteen and arthritic and clear-eyed. I would prefer to savor the sense of suppleness in the yoga I’m streaming after work is done, the feeling that my spine is a root and that all is steadiness below the ripples upon my mind’s surface. Small conversations, phone calls with people I know. Writing poetry and specfic. Reading, steeping my brain in a lot of words from so, so many people. The scent of incense and the silence after prayer.

Here is the prayer I wrote and posted last November for Elpis. Again.

To Elpis

Elpis, you remain in the jar,
the potential of libations.
Before words are spoken,
on the tip of the tongue,
among our racing desires,
adventurous, grasping thoughts,
you shine like a struck nebula,
dispensing grace like flowers.
You are the brightness we
grasp, unseeing the Fates
who know the topography of
our souls, the bright meadow,
the flowers plucked, the descent.
What Tykhe bestows and throws,
you, Elpis, press us to weather.
Wine meets earth, eventually.
Our aspirations flow swift into
the crevices of each choice
as the moments trace across
our universe like fine-spun
threads coiling about eternity.
Good spirit, flower-fragrant,
you who bestow the spark
to seek concord and beauty,
inspire us to find the best
in one another, the blessings
within the muddy ground,
to turn back cloudy despair
and all-dividing dissolution.


PS: I’m working on another commonplace book/quotation miscellany post, but I’m still considering how to structure it because a footnote got me reaching for some Plotinus and I have some other things to say about Aguirre? But anyway, in Plotinus, this translator, Luc Brisson, writes in his intro, “Mais l’éthique de Plotin a quelque chose de déconcertant pour le lecteur d’aujourd’hui : l’unique activité éthique qu’admette Plotin n’est autre que la poursuite continuelle par l’âme de l’union avec le divin.” And I’m … silent, speechless.

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