An open letter to Kevin Smith (aka Silent Bob) about silence and writing-as-shitting
Dear Kevin Smith,
You have a fucking radio show? That’s kind of hilarious because you were always the silent one. You were Silent Bob. You went from being pure body to pure voice. Why’d you do it, man? There was something philosophical about your silence, they way you were so expressive without saying anything. We all liked to imagine what you were thinking, how you were perceiving everything that was going on around you. There was a profound quality to your sparse interjections (because you never spoke, because of the scarcity of your words). The law of economics says that when demand exceeds supply, value increases. Maybe I should shut up. Maybe I should retreat into silence like you once did. Maybe then—only then—will people give a shit about any of this. Any of these words.
When you did speak, we felt lucky to be graced by your wise words. Because you never spoke, we felt like you were enlightened, like you were beyond language, like language was something the petty people did, and you did not need it. You were above all that, the way spiritual gurus are above food, the way they no longer need to satiate those earthly desires. You didn’t need to feed the part of the body that longs for recognition. You were a watcher, an observer. Everyone around you was always blabbering on and on, but you didn’t feel the need to fill up space in the same way. You know, most people feel anxious about silence. It’s the hardest thing, to live in silence. You can’t just “be” next to someone. It makes you totally nuts to feel like you don’t know what they’re thinking. Maybe their silence means hatred. Maybe I’m fucking boring. So we talk on and on because we are afraid, because we need to know where the other person is at, because silence can mean anything and we need our interactions to be anchored in certainty.
Dear Kevin Smith, I’m writing you this blog post letter because you mentioned HTML Giant and a blog post I made about Anne Frank and the censorship of her clit talk on your radio show. I didn’t even know you had a radio show, but an editor at this blog brought it to my attention. After listening to your show I wondered, what’s it like making the transition from silence to words? I also thought (I am not proud of this thought) that maybe you would give me money to write.
When I was like 11 years old my brothers and I would gather around the TV to watch Dogma. We probably didn’t even understand what it was about but we liked it. Never in a million years did I think that you would see something I did. When I was a little kid I felt this weird sadness about being a spectator of pop culture, the unidirectional-ness of my gaze, the fact that I would be seeing them—the stars—but they would never see me. That was the most depressing thing as a child. I remember watching the cartoon Doug as a kid, and there was this episode about Doug getting to hang with his favorite band The Beets. I remember thinking as a child, it doesn’t happen like that in reality. When I was around 10 years old I saw the Backstreet Boys in concert and I wanted to believe that the member with the heart murmur was waving to me, but somewhere in my rationalizing child mind I knew that I was just an invisible blip in this universe of stars. I was a very rational child. It was hard for me to believe in God even though I was a trained Catholic. During mass I could only think about how much I wanted to eat donuts because the church ladies would sell donuts outside my church after mass was over. That seems kind of sacrilegious, no? Maybe that’s why I loved Dogma so much as a kid.
When I told my partner over the phone that you mentioned my blog post on your radio show, she said, “Holy shit! I was just talking to someone today about how I was wondering what Kevin Smith is up to these days. Talking about my girlfriend on his radio show, I guess!” To be fair, you didn’t even mention me. But still, it felt like something.
Lately I’ve been feeling very FULL, like I’ve eaten too much. I am traveling around Europe, so I am a guest everywhere I go. People like to feed guests, and I can’t help but feel like refusing that 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th helping of food is an insult. So I eat on and on and on because I have a bottomless stomach (God’s stomach, someone once told me) and I love to try everything. Today, before pooping, I thought, I am going to feel full until I shit. And then I realized that that’s what not-writing feels like: like I’ve got this humongous shit to take but it just won’t come out. But if this analogy is true, does that mean my writing is shit? (The shit that has separated from the body, that has exited the rectum?) I feel like, in some ways, it is. Not in a self-deprecating (or self-defecating) way, but in some other sense. These words don’t feel abstract, they feel like this organic thing I’m generating with my body. Every word, a little pellet of rabbit-like shit. After writing, there is that lightness—the lightness of purging the waste, of dumping your insides so you can keep on living, so you won’t be weighed down by the accumulation of too much food…or too much living. Having something to say but no means it say it—it’s the worst kind of constipation. Did you feel like that when you were silent? What is it like to enter words?
Did your silence feel heavy?