11 December 2011

On Complaint

He asked how I could keep such knowledge from him. I shrugged my shoulders and responded that I did not know. But, in fact, I think I did know.  I have actually considered just that question for some time now because I have of late been loath to talk to anyone about any matter concerning myself other than my thoughts on intellectual (the reading) and impersonal matters (the gossip and politics). I’ve been thinking about what that reticence might mean
So much of conversation turns on the subject of complaint. “How are you?” And to too large an extent, we are not overly interested in listening to the reply. The question is a formality, as is the lack of response. “I’m fine (or not). And you?” And I did not want to complain. Complaining, like whining, is such passive activity: we speak our state rather than change it. Neither did I see much purpose in leaking. For years I have referred to a particular form of conversation as ‘leaking,’ the propensity to reveal neurotic proclivities rather than devote the energies required to keep them private. I think that there is a qualitative difference between leaking and complaining. In the former I acknowledge my own weaknesses and bring them out for analysis, but in the latter I accuse the world for my state and remain innocent. From the former I think intimate conversations may flourish, but in the latter they arrive lifeless. I mean, what can be said to complaint except that the one who complains is either right or wrong? To the complaint one either extends or withholds sympathy, but from leaking one explores the sources of the leak and even attempts some exploratory work and repair. From leaking conversation and dialogue ensues, but complaint condemns the participant to monologue. My concerns were not of the neurotic variety and so entailed no leaking. And I would not complain.
I did not want to demand sympathy and I did not want to experience disregard. I meant to impose no burden on another in my need to merely unburden myself; and besides, nothing in the conversation could not have affected a healing I sought or provide the comfort that the cure I desired would ultimately bring. What could anybody offer that would make me calm, and nothing in the complaint would fix what was broken. My conversation could make nothing happen and I did not want to confess. From such confession there could be no absolution.
So I didn’t tell because . . . because to tell, perversely, would have felt to me some betrayal of the relationship. I know relationships need not be easeful, but this particular sharing seemed to offer nothing upon which anything further might be built.  It would have asked for something that in a way could not be given.
But can honest relationships follow from such concealment?


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