I like to talk. It’s sort of my thing. I make a habit of answering questions with questions, then answering those questions with more questions. So imagine my distress waking up on Monday morning, my brain suddenly having levied some sort of sanctions against my vocal chords. Sure, I could wheeze out a “good morning”, and ask my mom if she wouldn’t mind cooking me breakfast, but even that cozy request came off sounding conspiratorial in my urgent whisper.
What to do? Could I really sit through a full school day without giving anyone my take on things? (What if they were wrong?) I knew from the get-go that I really oughtn’t use my voice any more than I had to, but it took about forty minutes of history class to ultimately convince me I wasn’t going to participate in class discussion that day. I might actually have to let my classmates’ ideas steep for a while without jumping in with my own objections.
I began to listen without the expectation of being able to respond. As the incessant note-taking and on-the-spot rebuttal formulation that usually accompanies my listening quieted, a new question rose to the surface: Does this matter?
Does this matter?
I will never apologize for the (very Jewish) instinct to squeeze every drop of meaning out of any little thing, but the cultural need to constantly be commenting on every story that hits your newsfeed, an experience that, particularly for someone of my generation, is ubiquitous, is not only exhausting but time consuming.
When we quiet down our own voices of commentary, we allow other stories to come to the surface. It becomes less about how I filter a story through my own lens and more about what someone else’s story means to them.
I’ve mostly regained my voice since then. But as Pesah approaches, I wouldn’t mind channeling that spirit of stepping back and listening to the deeper, older stories. I seek connectedness to the undercurrents flowing beneath all the small talk we make: currents of justice, currents of freedom, and the current of history yet unfolded. There’s a freedom in that sick and gravely voice: you no longer speak just to hear it.
Leon Kraeim is a high school senior.