She said the music made her wonder

Does it alter us more to be heard, or to hear? Is it better to have been loved, or to love?

Difficult questions, but the second seems, at first glance at least, the easier one to answer. Being loved is pleasure: it is flattering to know that you, mundane, fallible, culpable you, could inspire interest in another. Loving is fever, a mania you cannot shake: it is pleasure at meeting and the prospect of loss, it is sight itself, supercharged with significance. You see differently when you love, so if we modify these questions to Does it alter us more to have been loved, or to love, the answer is simple.

One recalls the statues and myths of the previous book and understands that even things that don't live can be loved. But can one be loved into being? Only if existence, or our sense of our reality and substance, requires a kind of recognition, only if we think we become ourselves only in the eyes of others. Which is not completely untrue, but utterly melancholy.

So though one cannot find a definite answer, there are clues to be considered, and text (our own days and hours, our thoughts) to be pored over. There is hope for an answer.

The first question, however, is the more elusive. Or deceptive: for how could being heard alter you? Perhaps being heard is knowing that someone wants to hear you, finds you worthy of being listened to. Perhaps it is the thought, or hope, that there exists a mind outside your own that may divine or suspect seams of meaning that you do not see yourself, almost as if this other could hear you more intensely, read you more clearly than you can. It would be, if such an improbable thing could come to pass, as if our mind and memories were a familiar and perhaps favored book pored over and examined to the point where we thought there was little else to find; as if we'd shared it carelessly with a friend, only to find fresh interpretations coming from this new reader. Thoughts which bring us back to those statues again, which had no words of their own but were granted speech by the manic monologues of madmen.

What, then, of hearing? In this text, hearing is entry, privileged and secret; it is passage into a sacred space. Zhuli thinks she sees into Sparrow what he cannot himself observe. Surely there can be no greater intimacy.


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