“because one deed, and sometimes one word, suffices to change every constellation” ~ Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
This is still one of my all-time favorite quotes, and perhaps one of the reasons I do what I do. The reason I write stories with words, tell stories through comics, tell stories through dance. Because one deed, one word, can change everything.
I read The Human Condition for a class in college called Performance Theory (I went to Eugene Lang College, at the New School in Manhattan). It was not really about performance as in theater or other entertainment–though these were also topics we covered–, but more about our performance as humans. Every day we perform– walking outside, being in front of others, speaking, ordering coffee. Living public life. Action and Speech are two of the most necessary parts of being human, according to Arendt. She writes that as babies we become more fully human once we utter that first word.
Needless to say, I got hooked on Arendt and Plato and others we read in the class, and these ideas of what it means to be human.
I’ve been going through my external hard drive since having some computer troubles about a month ago, and have come across essays I wrote in college. It’s strange to read these, I almost don’t remember writing them. My voice is so different from how it is now. I always thought I was terrible at writing papers, but some of them are pretty good. The ideas are complicated, the structure and voice are clear. I always tried to be clever in some way, which at times worked and other times didn’t.
So, what is it about words, language, speech that is so essential to being human? Communication with others? A way to tell our own stories? A strife for meaning? A way of making sound in the world, to break the silence and prove we exist?
I have a lot more thinking to do on this subject. And hopefully a lot more writing.
Here is a photo and myself and my college roommate Diana– senior year for Halloween we dressed up as young Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger:
(yeah, nerds! we rocked it.)