Most of us are guilty of this at some point: writing in cryptics. Why do we do it? Why express ourselves in terms that are not meant to be understood? Is it, perhaps, a deep subconscious desire to be public with our privacy? Is it more about reaching out, or being reached out to?
Aside from studying a poet forever burying his truth beneath layers of perplexity (if we are ever meant to find it at all), what interests me is the human tendency to overcomplicate problems, either out of shame, embarrassment or in trying to rescue some moral dignity.
Scenario: person A is in a relationship but goes to spend the day with person B, whom they have always had an attraction to. Person A ends the day feeling sheepish, unsettled and awkward, and explains it off as ‘it’s complicated’. It’s not complicated at all, but a collection of guilt and other unpleasant sensations that determines a distinctly defensive response. The majority of us will tie situations in knots to avoid a palpably and unescapably naked truth.
I’m no exception. One of my fundamental attractions to poetry, as I referenced recently, is how it frequently harbours and shrouds truths that are (as they often are) too painful or disappointing to contemplate. Thomas Wyatt’s sensational sonnet ‘I find no peace’ mulls mysteriously over such an awkward (if straightforward) problem.
Convictions and Courage
Once conscious of this, it’s quite striking how different brands of truth emerge, not least that which untangles rather than tangles. A friend of mine, who excuses me for this example, wrote something online a few years ago regarding a family member, which was then spotted and read by its subject. His reaction, unthinkingly, was to call up and talk it over rather than acting evasively. I was also impressed at a posterior confession, following a challenging discussion on fate, of his own vulnerability around a subject he seemed so forthright over.
This brand of transparency is refreshing and evidently memorable. An old writing space, the subject of recent discussion here and elsewhere, fell into difficulty with extended cryptics until it was simply just not fair to keep writing. There are different reasons for inhibition, and my claim of human tendency for overcomplication does not automatically make everything overtly simple.
Transparency like this takes courage, confidence in one’s own self, and faith in the understanding of others. I do not claim to have an abundance of any of these qualities; this past week in particular has shattered the latter.
Hence, I understand why writing in cryptics happens. It’s a risk these days to admit lowness in public. As Al Allday has recently noted, ‘selfish media’ has put pay to that. How, then, do we trephinate, so to speak? How do we let off steam to make ourselves better? Cryptics are not always about deceit. Sometimes there’s a calculated or necessary circumvention. It’s perhaps a case of needing support without the shame or the awkward questions that touch upon the raw and blistering truth.
But I wonder if patience is wearing thin for my own indecipherable utterances. Many things, I prefer not to talk about, but that does not easily excuse cryptics. To reach out has to be done constructively. The last week was a bad one; somebody I was trying to warm to laid on an astonishingly personal attack. Can one be excused for not wanting to say too much more?
A Masque for Seekers
I have come to accept being a fundamentally unattractive kind of person, and even to grace the benefits – it heightens my reactions to the promise of nicer things and nicer people – but I have not yet come to accept being a target of invective and ire. If only I could show any sign of giving back rather than just absorbing it.
Perhaps that itself is some positive function or personal fallacy for the world. But then perhaps I can forgive not wanting to detail any of this. To do so, after all, is not only to reiterate and relive what was said, but also to fill with doubt anew, and then to realise that it did happen. A human vacuum cleaner of others’ insecurity and bile. It’s a truth I do not expect others to believe, and one which is getting worse to contemplate. Come on – there must be better things ahead.
I dedicate this to a dear friend, seen for the first time in over four years yesterday. He never liked cutting through the ribbons of what I was trying to say, but straight talking has always proven his uncomplicated love. He is the catalyst behind great things and, in living, makes the world a better place. God bless, Sy.