Reading: A Seductive Magic [Hippie Squared]

I love to read. Love love love love love it. I find it to be an incredibly intimate way to share someone else’s thought(s). They wrote it down. They signed it. They hit enter, they hit send. There’s no backing off of that.

“This is what happened to me,” they are saying; or, “This is what I imagined into being. This is what I think. This is what I feel.” What a brave and abandoned thing for them to do. What a gift for them to offer. To me, it’s a profound, a mystical, an intimate and vulnerable transaction. I could, but I won’t, say sacred.

On my end of the transference, as reader, I become custodian of the thought. Behind the screen of the page (or the literal computer screen). There’s a safety, for the writer, and for me, of that page or that screen coming between us. Both writer and reader stand in naked intimacy, revealed in the light of what’s been shared, but wearing the masks that make it safe. We are hidden each from the other, by the mask of the byline; my anonymity to the writer; the face of the writer’s persona turned toward me. “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth,” as Oscar Wilde said, wearing his Oscar Wilde mask.

Which can all make it sound deadly serious. But to me, it’s just a shitload of fun. I love to imagine. I love to think. I love to feel. When I read, it’s like I get extra shots at these things, more than I’ve earned through my own life’s experiences. I love to let my mind and spirit loose, wandering someone else’s journeys, which become paths trod in my own brain, making their journeys my own.

On the writing end of the transaction, it’s like sending a message–a joke, a story, a thought–by paper airplane. You scribble it on the paper. You fold the paper into an intricate little flying envelope, and you send it aloft– to be grabbed up by the jet stream and carried across the continent, darting and dipping through mountain passes; out across the ocean, gliding alone and frozen beneath icy stars; or more likely, just to nose dive into the coffee table or behind the couch before it even gets across the room. But hey, you write it down, you cut it loose and you take your chances.

Reading is not really a two-way transaction, but to me it feels like it. Maybe the writer and I are not separated by a screen, a mask, but rather by a round table. We sit across from each other, swapping stories, thoughts, arguments. I read the writer’s words, and there’s a new voice in my head. My thoughts engage the thoughts of the writer in a dialogue of sorts—because my own internal voice, distinct from that writer’s, answers back. Here the illusion really kicks in (hear it kick in)—when the imagined voice of the writer, in my head, replies to me. Now we’re off to the races.

For instance here. Right now. This is my voice. In your head. How does it sound? Winking? Cranky? Do I intone, as if hovering over a crystal ball? Do I rant, as if teetering on a bar stool? Do I sound professorial, or jazz-inflected, or dope-addled? Am I whisky-voiced or whiny-voiced? Or something in the middle registers?

Did you answer any of those questions? Did your internal voice answer-back to your imaginary version of my voice? And did I then reply? What did I say? It’s a seductive magic. Because I’ll never know. Somewhere out there, if you’ve read this far, you are having an imaginary dialogue with an imaginary me. That me that you’ve imagined no longer belongs to this me, on the writing end of this transaction. But that me, your me, does exist. You have conjured and animate that me. It’s not quite an actual two-way communication. But it feels like it. It’s more than two-way, in a way. It’s four-way, or eight-way, or every-which-way.

Either way. To me, it’s a beautiful thing. And I love the hell out of it.


featured image credit: cliff1066

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