Ostentatious Rhetoric and I

My Al-Rifa’i pistachio bowl asks me the most pertinent of questions. Why do you write in a complex fashion? Must your vocabulary alienate your Arab readers all the time? Does the phrase holier than thou mean anything to you? Do you have feelings for your Oxford dictionary? If not, have you ever thought about it?

Notwithstanding the pistachio’s rather startling orating abilities, it does make a strong case for another tortuous cerebral expedition. It occurs to me that my writing style is somewhat perceived as vain. And by ‘occurred to me,’ I mean I’ve so been told. It’s not the content, that I cannot dispute, but the actual wording of thoughts. Let me start by first admitting that it is partially in the spirit of vanity that I write as such. However, if my endeavor is to mask the insecurities of my thoughts, then the complexity of my diction has revealed them. This admittance should serve to partially rebuke the common perception of vanity. But more to the point is my commitment to what I write. I love words, because communication is all that can bring us together. And perhaps, if we’re lucky enough to understand one another, we can transcend the boredom of our solitary evolution. Writing prose is a conscious construction of words whose purpose is to communicate a precise message as accurately as possible. If one has trouble expressing thoughts verbally or otherwise, one is naturally inclined to pick the most accurate verbiage with which to convey such thoughts. It is perhaps my intransigence in translating my thoughts and emotions as flawlessly as possible that drives me write as I do, and yet still, many nuances are abated in the process. Words are our only objective medium to state, designate, describe, refuse, offend, sway, and order. While I consume the surviving pistachios and pour myself another drink, I leave you with the words of a man whose thoughts are too remarkable to be paraphrased by this author:

“Prose is first of all an attitude of mind. As Valéry would say, there is prose when the word passes across our gaze as the glass across the sun. When one is in danger or in difficulty he grabs any instrument. When the danger is past, he does not even remember whether it was a hammer or a stick; moreover, he never knew; all he needed was a prolongation of his body, a means of extending his hand to the highest branch. It was a sixth finger, a third leg, in short, a pure function which he assimilated. Thus, regarding language, it is our shell and our antennae; it protects us against others and informs us about them; it is a prolongation of our senses, a third eye which is going to look into our neighbor’s heart. We are within language as within our body. We feel it spontaneously while going beyond it toward other ends, as we feel our hands and our feet; we perceive it when it is the other who is using it, as we perceive the limbs of others. There is the word which is lived and the word which is met. But in both cases it is in the course of an undertaking, either of me acting upon others, or the others upon me.” Jean-Paul Sartre, What is Literature?

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One Response to “Ostentatious Rhetoric and I”

  1. Karen Says:

    Words… it’s funny how we take them for granted.. which is why I praise you on doing the best you can with them, vain or otherwise.. ‘a prolongation of our senses’.. I had not heard it phrased quite as accurately. It explains why I felt the need to read your last promising land entry another time over. On that note.. part 3?

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