Voices in the head: from Juan Rulfo to Extremism

How many voices are inside your head? Who are they- relatives, your partner, a mélange of them? I was taking a leisurely stroll on the side of the Potomac last week when I realized this- that every man must have at least five voices in his head. I suppose that the very act of writing necessitates listening to the voices, almost like the character of Valis by Philip K. Dick.

So I suppose the corollary to the fact that all men have voices in their head is that men select which ones to listen to. There are voices so powerful, they cannot be silenced. When I sit down to write a story, I am deeply attuned to certain voices inside my head – the one that tells about a character or even the character him/herself.

I suppose certain voices must be so distracting they can harm a man. We easily drown out the voices with stimulation, from TV to video games, but at the end of the day, they are still there when we lie in bed with our lights off. Imagine not being able to function because of crippling voices. It seems fantastic, but I imagine not too far from where we currently are.

As I read H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Whisperer in Darkness,” I am reminded of the blurry and almost nonexistent line between insanity and sanity. A man who succumbs to the voices is always in danger because they live only within his head and can only be explained second hand to another. I hope the voices in your head are kind enough to grant you a reprieve. I will try to listen as closely as I can to the voices without being overwhelmed. I cannot guarantee that I will return from the nether regions- the distant future or the closeness of the past.

My final point about voices and how every man contends with them: I was listening to an interview with Juan Rulfo, the great Mexican novelist, and heard a comment he made about violence.

“I have never met a violent man,” he says at a certain point when the interviewer questions Rulfo about the origins of the violent men in his stories.

Rulfo explains that the men he met who were violent were addicted to the acts of violence that had stemmed from the revolution: assault, rape, and theft. They were not violent people.

The point was explosive yet subtle.  The US government recently declassified documents found in Bin Laden’s home. An application for extremists desiring to join the organization was among the documents. Questions on the application included: “Who should we contact if you attain martyrdom?” The morbidly humorous question makes one wonder about the conflict in the Middle East. Are those people that we see firing and shooting really violent? Or is it a matter of socialization and the voices instilled in us and the ones we create from the ones we hear around us?

Perhaps the voices that ring loudly in their minds are the ones that request martyrdom or anti-western sentiments. I am not condoning when someone listens to one voice or another, but one must wonder about violence and whether anyone is really ‘violent’ as Rulfo said…


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