This is a confession. I am guilty of a wrongful appropriation. For over a year I have unjustly enlisted a borrowed phrase as a private talisman to ward off distress. It was an error of projection and a sad case of not finishing reading a sentence.
But let’s put you to the test, dear reader. Let’s see whether you are as tempted as I was to project stoic acceptance into this phrase:
“People who have ceased to hope that they will be fully understood express themselves with something of the torment of the deaf mute” (2)
What kept on echoing in my mind was “people who have ceased to hope” - and I thought of it as people who have wisely shed unrealistic expectations and who therefore would no longer be anguished about being (mis)understood. Stoically consoling, somehow.
But I had completely ignored the subsequent “torment of the deaf mute” (3)…. I had not understood that “ceasing to hope” does not equal “ceasing to need” … And so I had blithely skipped the essential, tormented part of the phrase.
Let me warn you that I’m wrongfully appropriating again: the above are not my own coffee-cup and glass of water. I just found them like that, left behind on a café-table. I myself am a stolid tea-drinker, not a sophisticated, wired espresso-sipper. But somehow an espresso-cup seemed more glamorously melancholic than a sensible tea-mug, and hence also more suited to illustrate this post. (4)
Trying to get more words into the footnotes than in the main body of text
(1) Proust - La fugitive : « “On devine en lisant, on crée; tout part d’une erreur initiale […] Une bonne partie de ce que nous croyons, et jusque dans les conclusions dernières c’est ainsi, avec un entêtement et une bonne foi égale, vient d’une première méprise sur les prémisses »
(2) The art historian Max J. Friedlaënder when describing the portraits painted by Quinten Metsys (Flemish 16th C painter)
(3) I’m all the more not to be forgiven for ignoring the second part of that sentence, since one of my favorite books is “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” by Carson Mc Cullers. A poignant account of the appeal a deaf mute exerts on a set of lonely people in a small village in the American south. Each of them turns to the deaf-mute to express their hopes and anguishes – his silent smiling seen as proof of his understanding. (Whereas the deaf-mute in reality is rather politely puzzled by the emotional gushes of those people and in his turn ardently communicates in sign-language with the only other deaf mute in town, who is a simpleton addicted to sweets)
(4) a puzzling difference in image really, the one between tea- and coffee- drinking.