Once it becomes clear that thoughts are witnessed by something independent of them, it begs a simple question. Who is speaking in my own voice?
This is the voice in our heads, but also, the voice that speaks. The one with opinions. Who responds to affront. The one with political opinions of a certain slant. The one who speaks so passionately in defence of certain held sensibilities. The voice that carries tension. That speaks with a lover’s gentle cadence. The one who becomes hoarse with indignation. Who whispers in fear. The voice that speaks my own family name, with all the weight that carries. The voice that erupts at moments of peak experience into a catcall or a whoop. The laugh which giggles, which rumbles until the tearducts leak fat drops of liquid.
This voice sounds like me. But is not me.
I am the one who witnesses this voice. Who hears it speaking, sometimes marvelling at its own predicatable patterns.
I am the cave wall upon which this voice echoes, the eardrum upon which these vibrations find an audience.
The voice cannot exist without me, but this does not mean we are one and the same.
The voice is one outlet of a machine that carries momentum. It uses muscles of a particular strength and conditioning. It responds to brain signals that are sent to move the lips, tongue, jaw and larynx. And it speaks in the language of my parents, with the accent of my homeland and social class.
But I am not this voice.
I hear this voice as it utters its first infant gurgles. As it learns to pronounce multi-syllabic words. As its vocal cords lengthen and thicken in adolescence. As it disappears during winter pharyngitis. As it grows frail with age and finally lapses into the silence of eternity.
This voice is an expression of this current body, just as a finely wrought guitar reflects the materials, shape, history and quality of its manifestation.
The voice, like that guitar, is bound by the physical limitations of its design. But occasionally, and by grace rather than intention, a certain music comes through it that indicates the luthier himself.
In the space between the words comes an intimation of the void from which everything emerges.
The sounds themselves, which are ultimately content free, suggest their counterpart which is emptiness.
I am the space in which this voice appears.
I welcome the utterances, both silly and wise, with absolute impartiality.
Despite the familiarity of this voice, and its constant attempts to speak as ‘me’, I am confident of my independence and prior origination.
I heard it start, and I will hear it end.