Testimonial

Testimonies become more and more personal over time and, for that very reason, more and more impossible to ‘defend’, ‘ground’, or ‘justify’. The highest accounts of spirit come with the disclaimer, “You must take me at my word”―at least until you’ve read, understood, and experienced what is said. But even then, don’t glance over the fact, don’t be flippant with this supreme detail, that what I say is pulled up with considerable effort from that well I call my soul, the repository or oracle of the unique end-purpose of my being. What I choke out in frustrated modes, what I embellish with rhetoric, what I labor out in slow movements of argument―all of this has its field, and each field has its relevance, but underneath was a person who never, entirely, lets itself be overlooked. Indeed, figures tower in history because they saturate their own context, meaning that they lived an ‘intuition’ for which no concept is fitting; we have only their proper name, reference to an almost limitless enigma. They underwent intimately their own ‘suchness’, the so-called singularity of an unfolding, full to the brim with a mostly invisible consciousness. The plea, “Please believe me!” (the content of what I say) is rooted in a deeper plea, “Please believe me!” (I who speak, the person addressing you). A gesture of faith must be given to the witness, a measure of credit; otherwise, their witness will never be credible, never entertained. Perhaps the cause of such disharmony in social discourse is that this ground of credit has fallen out from under us. We speak at or about each other, instead of to each other, disagreeing there is any “soul” at all. We fixate on the active articulation of our view, paying little attention to the common “trust” of language we share. Restoring that implies an ethic of listening, but we all have learned, too, how difficult this is.

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