It’s an odd job, listening to War.
As a psychiatrist, I spend my days listening to the words of combat veterans, men and women, from all branches of the United States military, many young enough to be my children, quite a few old enough to be my peers, and, still, a few elder enough to be my parents.
I hear hilarious stories. I hear tragic stories. I hear stories of courage. I hear stories of foolishness. Many, many words, spoken in many voices.
In addition, though, as a civilian, as a person who has been served by those combat veterans, no matter the politics or rhetoric of the moment, I read the words of combat veterans: their novels, their short stories, their poetry, their essays, hilarious, tragic, courageous, foolish. Many, many more words, now spoken in one voice inside my head, my internal voice. Yet never my voice. Or at least never fully my voice.
In a previous blog I shared words created in conversations. In this one, I share in conversation with you words created in me. Words created by me, yes, if you want to be literal about it. But much more, words created in me, by writers whom I may never meet, by veterans whose words have forced me to respect that I will never hear any words of War (at least until such day as I might find myself in the middle of it) “frontally,” face-to-face, eye-to-eye.
I will always hear askew, a few degrees off at times, quite a few off at other times.
I’ll never get it.
Yet I will keep trying to get what I might not now get, right myself a few degrees at times, quite a few at other times, each time re-calibrating, only to start over.
For that is what I owe these men and women: my willingness to let their words create me by keeping me always askew.
After all, I am one of the Society that sent them to War. I owe it to them never to be quite plumb again.
My blog is a journal of reflection, of listening, of reading, of missing things by a mile, of trying to retrace that mile so that the next time I maybe—maybe—won’t miss them quite as much.
I welcome you to join me, and I thank you for whatever time and thoughts you might have.
Rodney J.S. Deaton, MD, JD