Language is a lie
. A unicorn is a magical beast who can never be tamed. She is sitting across from you at the dinner table. What do you say?
I'M TRYING TO BE A BETTER PERSON
BUT I'M JUST A WALL...
"Everything before the but is bullshit." ~Anonymous*
"....a useful hermeneutic rule
when dealing with sentences of the type: "I'm not racist, but..." ~Google
Let's start here. Applied to this adage, there's nothing special about a wall. It's simply an opaque obstruction, the blank space that catches your glance in a bathroom. Yet "I'm just a wall"? The thing you are looking at is claiming to have a conversation with you. It declares its own agency in first person singular. It suppresses the inclination to dismiss it as bathroom graffiti because it self-reflexively already calls that superficial detail to attention. It's self proclaiming, like the backcover of a book. And you do have conversations with books, do you not? Are they not your friend? Do they not carry secrets in the margins, gossip collected by the scribblers who spoke to your book before you? Are they not possessed with wisdom, authority, and the knowledge of the universe?
And what does this authority dispute but that which is before the but: I'm trying to be a better person. We've heard this before, now haven't we? By pleaders? To ourselves? We know either that we can't believe this emotional bullshit-- this cry for self-improvement graffitied in the back corner of some public bathroom-- or, as language doesn't fail to suggest, its assertion is simply impossible. It can't be a better person-- it's just a wall! The nouns are entirely incongruent. The claim is thwarted from the start. In lieu, it is simple a declaration of itself, it's own existence, and the acceptance of its own identity: wall.
Yet is this sentence really any different than any other? Can't we reason that it is merely a wall on our own, by encouraged discussion or other non-textual suggestions? Of course it's only a wall, it's only bathroom graffiti. It's only a woman's shopping list, left in the cart. It's only browned and faded letters found in the attic. Only a text message. Only words on a screen before your face.We don't see the wall doing community service, quit drinking, and talk to its children more. It could keep trying to be a better person, or it may fail and give up quickly. There's no proof that anything has happened. The wall didn't actually get on a little tiny boat and catch an enormous whale. That's Moby Dick. It's just a book.
We know behind those words is just a human, a scribbler trying to be a better person. We take this for granted. It is not uncommon to become heartswarmed at the penned ink of a far-away love, or perhaps the gentle, choice wordplay texted from a friend, or the warmth of the world in a blog written by people who know a little bit of what it is like to be you. We speak through the words, and hear likewise. But still, we cannot always hear clearly, and we cannot see through walls.
So what happens here is at first a bit befuddling, then profoundly accurate. The person, the author, is hiding behind the most blatant truth: I'm just a wall; when he could be hiding behind the more 'honest,' emotionally painful truths: I'm trying to be a better person, but that's bullshit. If we can't get past that it's just a wall, we'll never know we know why why they can't be a better person. For whatever reason, they'll never improve, or they won't try. The author is stagnant, like a wall, only subject to time and interpretation.
*1812, "nameless person," from French anonyme, from Latin anonymus, from Greek anonymos "without a name". Meaning "fictitious name" is recorded from 1866.