"Only the hand that erases can write the true thing."
-- Meister Eckhard
Sometimes you feel caught in a web of language, your identity defined by words you never chose and cannot seem to shake. Whatever the words -- hysteric, geek, slut, atheist, Gen Xer, Hispanic or just temporary departmental associate project assistant -- they work their way insidiously into the story you tell about yourself. To break free and rewrite your own story, you must first get in touch with the nausea at the heart of language. You can do this in the quiet of your own home, by following a few simple steps.
Select the word that most binds your identity. With pen and paper, write it out in big block letters. Now, focus your eyes on the word you have written down and gently consider its claims upon you. At first, you may not notice any change. Remain focused. In time, the letters before you begin to swim. The word relinquishes all authority. It seems alien, its spelling almost random. With sickening speed, a chain reaction spreads through the whole language until its arbitrary structure stretches out before you, raw and meaningless. At this point, your own personal narrative, the text that is you, may begin to hemorrhage in big, wet chunks. The nausea of language is upon you.
I am the text that I erase.
Reprinted with permission from "Daily Afflictions" by Andrew Boyd, published by W.W. Norton. To order a copy, click here