We are born vulnerable into this world, our claws too pale and blunt to offer defense, born into a state of being at the mercy of the unimaginable universe.
We die that way too, though most of us would deny it. Some of us work on our defenses for a century, but they always crumble. They always crumble.
The only armor that lasts until you exit is the armor you came in with: your voice.
We are all different, but we are all the same. No one voice is more important than another’s, and yet some voices are privileged anyway. Mine is. I raise my voice and people listen. Some of the reason is that I am loud. Some of it is that I am practiced: I have used my voice for some time. And some of it is a complete accident, a confluence of luck and prejudice, of preference for certain characteristics I share that have little to do with my voice’s real value.
My voice can drown out others. I can use it to squelch or to amplify others. I have known this for some time, but I learn it constantly.
All these things I call a life will fade. All this armor, welded scale by scale of compliments and complaints, will rust away. All the pride and libido, the resentments and rancor, all the insecure insensitivity, all the fleeting entwined euphoria and desolation will fade, and in the end I will have only those two things with which I arrived: vulnerability and voice.
Strip away the privilege and pain, the gender and the class, the opportunities assumed and denied, strip away all the useless baggage laden on each one of us and we stand there as we were born: vulnerable to the slightest passing breeze, burned by the shortest flame, and carrying only our voices in defense.
We may be very different, but we are the same.
Half a century in, life seems far too fleeting. Half a century in, life seems far too long. Too many voices silenced, and not nearly enough time to say all that must be said.
And I know that some have fallen silent because of me.
It is the way of privilege. A favored voice augments those others it can pick and choose.
If you wonder at my choice of crying in the wilderness, at my staying away from the crowd, that is the reason. So many lovely voices there. I could not bear to muffle them.