My Imagined Interlocutors

Sometimes I find myself conducting arguments with  myself; ‘in my head’, as it were. I walk along the streets, running their premises and conclusions through my mind; I refine their rhetorical pitch, I rehearse them; sometimes, I find myself overcome by the emotion associated with their content; indeed, one of the reasons I write here is that it helps me articulate those arguments in the written word, to see if they can withstand the light of day, to get them ‘out and about.’ Sometimes they stay in my cranium, revisited time and again, perennial occupants of its discursive spaces. Embarrassingly enough, as my wife has noted, these conversations are often visible to others; I can be seen talking to myself, mumbling and shuffling down the street, perhaps causing alarmed parents pushing strollers down the street to vacate the sidewalk.

Sometimes I notice that I seem to be debating an imagined interlocutor; a contestant, a sparring partner of sorts. Who are these folk?

Some of them can be recognized quite easily.

My brother, for one, whom I grew up debating and arguing with; he and I often disagreed about what we read about in the newspapers and in the books we read together; our arguments were quite passionate. On one memorable occasion, he stormed out of a dinner at a restaurant; my mother and I finished our meal and drove home to find him waiting for us. Now that we live on separate continents, our opportunities for these encounters–in person–have grown sharply limited. Not in my mind though, where I find myself anticipating his reaction to a news item or an event in my life, and responding to it. Sometimes I even subconsciously rehearse these arguments before I travel to India; I don’t always get the time on those hectic trips to actually articulate them, of course.

And then, of course, there is my wife, my constant companion and friend and partner in life’s daily challenges. There is plenty to dispute here, much to plan, and now, as joint stakeholders in the business of raising of a child, fundamental, existential, issues to be debated and resolved. So entwined are our lives, indeed, that I would find it surprising if I did not have more of these ‘conversations’ with her. We are both busy folk, so its only natural that some of these occur with her not physically  present.

Lastly, there are ghostly, not clearly discernible or identifiable figures; perhaps social gadflies who have gotten under my skin, perhaps political figures I deem threatening, perhaps fellow academics who might dispute my writings. Sometimes, on a more benign note, there are friends and acquaintances–and even acquisitions editors of publishing houses!–subjected to a friendly persuasion of sorts. My students too, show up here; I often shape and fashion and rehearse a verbal exegesis intended for them before finally delivering it.

Without this motley crew of companions, I daresay my solitary hours would be considerably less interesting and edifying. The possibility that I might be reckoned an eccentric by those around me seems like a small price to pay.

2 comments on “My Imagined Interlocutors

  1. Noor Alam says:

    Ha! Love it! Its really incredible that you do this, I’m not sure I really do the same unless I am actually in the midst of an argument with someone. Otherwise my running mental commentary tends to be far more mundane, a list of what I need to get done for the day, how I’m going to get it done, how much I would love a massage, how much I would love a latte…etc. Wish I could say that I spent more time thinking of larger things!

    The question is, of course, whether you act out both parties to this conversation, or do you stick to your own part🙂

  2. […] mid-August or so, my normal ‘auto-chattering’–the monologues I have with myself as I walk around the streets of New York City–picked up pace. I began rehearsing dialogues with an imaginary audience, holding forth, […]

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