"From the darkness, sleeping light." Formerly luminus dormiens. Lux pacis, light of peace.

Quote: "Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." --Bill Watterson, cartoonist, Calvin and Hobbes


curious question: what does being hearing mean to you?

Somebody asked me a funny question yesterday, before the IceWorm show. What does Deaf culture means to you?

I was at a loss to answer. First of all, I'm not really part of Deaf culture. Secondly, my experience as someone who grew up through the oralist method may contribute to the vitality of Deaf culture, but does nothing to make me comprehend its meaning.

Thirdly, the question is, in retrospect, stupid. That person who asked me said that her teacher told her to write a paper about interviewing deaf people and asking what it means to them.

After the IceWorm show, a guy came and joined us in our post-performance chatting. She asked the question again, which caused him to reply with a clever rejoinder, "What does hearing culture means to you?"

Precisely the point. When people say that their Chinese culture is important, or that their gay culture is important, among other things, it is difficult to say what you mean unless you make it concrete with a set of standards by which you can define a culture.

So the question should have been rephrased differently. I'm not saying that cultures shouldn't mean something, because to some people, they do. Deaf culture must obviously means something to that teacher who assigned the paper.

As for my answer to that question, I'm stuck saying, "No, it has little meaning to me beyond what I've read in books and the people I've met, and the performances I've watched. When I envision a Deaf world, I see a little house full of people who are signing to each other, the picture is not crystallized beyond that. I confess that I am still far more comfortable in the hearing world than the Deaf because I grew up in that world. Whether or not I missed out on a lot of things has no bearing on my perspective because I have not yet experienced them."

When I read about how people who grew up in oralist, mainstreamed school and finally find themselves in the world where they could see themselves on an equal level with their peers, they talked of the greatest gratitude for the experience of having the barriers toward connecting with another human being just melt away.

Although I've experienced good joy, I am still wallowed up in self doubt, uncertainty and fear that I cannot wholly join the Deaf community because of something that I feel they are missing that I truly love: music, conversational joy, freedom of the Internet, and middle-class living.

Although I was born with a hearing loss, I grew up watching the Sounds of Music and reading the captioning on the screen, and singing (to the hearing displeasure of my mom) to the words on the screen.

Conversational joy is difficult to define because I've not yet experienced it and have a idealized belief of what it is. Conversational joy is the capacity to talk politics, to be open about sex, to tell someone how cute 'ey is without "feeling weird inside my stomach." The weird feeling of which is, simply, in-'hi-bi-tion.

So far now, I've found few people who have produced a website or a forum for general discussion. There are two answers: Deaf people are full poor and few could afford or see the reason to afford the Internet; and, Deaf people are not necessarily comfortable with the English language as I am.

Some of you know that from the very beginning I have loved Shakespeare, and works that talk about Shakespeare, i.e. whether he was good or bad, whether he actually wrote the works that he's credited with. (The very beginning meaning starting in 5th grade.) I believe that it was from him and his extraordinary language that I acquired a certain degree of fluency in English, that has caused me to oscillate between speaking common-sense language, and speaking a language so wordy that even I don't know what I'm talking about. There's also Emily Dickinson, whose works I enjoy.

Codicils and endless sub-clauses menace me as do they menace the heralded Democratic candidate of 2004. Sometimes I regard a sentence that I write with much trepidation at the thought of it being published because I see something in it that tells the world, "This is I. This is me. This is who I am. This is how I write, the mish-mash of the dozens of authors (Shakespeare, Dickinson, J. K. Rowling, J. R. R. Tolkiens, Harold Bloom, etc.) that course through my veins. Their metaphors, their clauses, their languages are integrated into my own. It is because I do not read works of a less high-minded nature and by a less high-minded authors that I write sentences so elevated to such a point that all of them seem 'to shit marbles.'" Now I swing to a certain depravity.

Maybe it's because of my vocabulary. After reading that Shakespeare has a vocabular of 20,000 words or more, I seem compelled in my competitive desire to try to match him word for word, and also to compose words and phrases together that would make the most euphonic melody. I just did it. I used "compelled" and then used "competitive" to echo it. The sounds must seem the echo to the sense.

Middle-class living is just a way of saying that Deaf people aren't necessarily rich. Those that are, like my ASL professor, were just lucky to have written a gloriously good book that sells well and is consumed daily by thousands of students learning ASL for the first time.

Maybe I've set my expectations too high. And I've digressed from my original topic. What does being hearing mean to you? For those that have never seen a deaf person, it must seem like a quaint question to ask. I have the fortune of seeing both, and neither currently offers much hope for the future of humanity.

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