4.1. Hearing with More Than Ears

The young Jacques was entrusted by his co-conspirators with sole responsibility for recruiting new members for the Volunteers of Liberty. For one thing, his extraordinary memory allowed him to report on his contacts and to summarize the week's intelligence without writing notes on scraps of paper scraps that might fall into the wrong hands. More importantly, those who knew him believed he had a special "sense for the human being" a sense that was infallible, or nearly so.

This special inner sense, feeding upon images, colors, textures, sounds, was a gift Lusseyran already possessed as a young boy. He tells, for example, of the time his math teacher "came into the classroom, clapped his hands and boldly began his lecture":

He was lucid that day, as he usually was, perhaps more interesting than ever, a little too interesting. His voice, instead of falling into place at the end of the sentence, as it should have, going a tone or two down the scale, hung in the air, a bit sharp. It was as though the teacher wanted to hide something that day, put a good face on it before an unknown audience, prove that he was not giving in, that he would carry on to the end because he had to. Meanwhile, accustomed to the cadence of his sentences falling as regularly as the beat of a metronome, I listened attentively, and was distressed on his account. I wanted to help, but that seemed foolish, for I had no reason for thinking him unhappy. All the same he was unhappy, bitterly unhappy. The terrible "intelligence" of gossip told us a week later that his wife had just left him.

Lusseyran then goes on:

I ended by reading so many things into voices without wanting to, without even thinking about it, that voices concerned me more than the words they spoke. Sometimes, for minutes at a time in class, I heard nothing, neither the teacher's questions nor the answers of my comrades. I was too much absorbed by the images that their voices were parading through my head. All the more since these images half the time contradicted, and flagrantly, the appearance of things. For instance, the student named Pacot had just been given 100 by the teacher of history. I was astonished, because Pacot's voice had informed me, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he had understood nothing. He had recited the lesson, but only with his lips. His voice sounded like an empty rattle, with no substance in the sound.

. . .

A beautiful voice (and beautiful means a great deal in this context, for it means that the man who has such a voice is beautiful himself) remains so through coughing and stammering. An ugly voice, on the contrary, can become soft, scented, humming, singing like the flute. But to no purpose. It stays ugly just the same.

As recruiter and co-leader of one of the five largest Resistance organizations in France, Lusseyran enjoyed many striking successes. But in 1943 he and many of his comrades were betrayed to the Germans, imprisoned for six months, and interrogated by the Gestapo. Then they were shipped off to Buchenwald. Of the two thousand persons in this shipment, Lusseyran was one of about thirty who remained alive when General Patton's troops liberated Buchenwald fifteen months later.

The remarkable thing is that Lusseyran could not see. He had totally lost his sight in an accident when he was between seven and eight years old. It was to a blind youth that his comrades in the Resistance entrusted their fate, and it was the same blind youth who found the hidden resources to survive the horrors of Buchenwald.



Devices of the Soul. Battling for Our Selves in an Age of Machines
Devices of the Soul: Battling for Our Selves in an Age of Machines
ISBN: 0596526806
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2007
Pages: 122
Authors: Steve Talbott

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