The Land of Fluency

A certain man who stuttered believed his speech impediment could be totally cured and that he could enjoy the pleasures of normal speech for the rest of his life.

He sought the real Therapist of the Age. He read many books, Web pages, and research articles, and joined several support groups. He tried the various fluency techniques, devices, and drugs. He attended the intensive therapy programs of one speech therapist after another. He carried out the commands and fluency exercises that seemed to him to be most likely to help him speak fluently.

He became elated with some of his speaking successes. At other times he was confused and discouraged; and he had no idea at all what his stage of cure was, or where and when he might finally find the completely fluent speech that seemed to elude him.

One day, this man was idly questioning why he had devoted so much of his life to seeking fluent speech, when he suddenly found himself near the house of a certain speech therapist of high repute. In the garden of that house he encountered Stamir, the secret guide who shows the way to Fluency.

Stamir took the traveler to a place where he saw people in great distress and dysfluency, and the man asked who they were. A representative of the group wrote a response on a piece of paper and handed it to him. "We are those who did not follow real teachings," said the message. "We are those who were not true to our undertakings, who revered self-appointed therapists, and who worshipped the Fluency god."

Then the man was taken by Stamir to a place where everyone was attractive and full of talk. He asked who they were. "We are stutterers who did not follow the real Principles of the Way," they said in unison.

"But if you have ignored the Principles, how can your speech be fluent?" asked the traveler.

"Because-we-chose-fluent-speech-instead-of-Fluency," said the people in monotone voices, "just-as-those-who-chose- the- self-appointed-therapists-chose-also-stuttering."

"But is fluent speech not the ideal of stutterers?" asked the man.

Their leader, a man who spoke very carefully, answered while the others nodded. "The true goal of all speakers is Fluency—the ability to freely communicate one's thoughts and feelings to others and to say what one wants to say without fear. Fluency is more than fluent speech. The man who has Fluency may stutter or not," the man told him, carefully using his fluent speech techniques. "We have pretended that Fluency is fluent speech, and fluent speech Fluency, and people have believed us. Therefore you, too, have until now imagined that fluent speech must be the same as Fluency. But fluent speech makes you its prisoner, as does stuttering."

"But how is fluent speech a 'prison?'" asked the man. The others drifted away, chatting among themselves, and the leader responded in a quiet voice. "To avoid revealing our dysfluency we have organized our lives here to avoid occupations or public activities that might require speech. And we have decided to not discuss our situation with anyone but ourselves. Some would say this is a prison.  However, this seems to meet our needs. We are happy here."

Then the man found himself back in the garden, with Stamir beside him.

"I will grant you one desire," said Stamir.

"I wish to know why I have failed in my search for Fluency and how I can succeed in it," said the man.

"You have all but wasted your life," said Stamir, "because you have been afraid and self critical. Fear of stuttering is natural. But rejection of your fear led you to idealize the gratification and safety of fluent speech, when you could have been seeking Fluency. Your self criticism has made it difficult to accept and love yourself because you stutter."

"And yet I came to the point where I found you," said the man, "and that is something which happens to hardly anyone at all."

"Not so few as you may think," said Stamir. "But you met me because you had sufficient courage and sincerity to desire true Fluency for its own sake, just for a moment. It was that ability to let go of your desire for fluent speech, in that single instant, that made me answer your call."

Now the man felt an overwhelming desire to find true Fluency, even if he never spoke without stuttering again.

Stamir, however, was starting to walk away, and the man began to run after him.

"You may not follow me," said Stamir, "because I am returning to the ordinary world -- the hell of stuttering -- for that is where I have to be, if I am to do my work."

And when the man looked around him again, he realized he was no longer in the garden of the therapist, but standing in the Land of Fluency.

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(Loosely by adapted by Darrell M. Dodge from "The Land of Truth," 
Indries Shah, Thinkers of the East, Jonathan Cape Ltd., 1971.)

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Darrell M. Dodge 1998-2006