Friday, July 23, 2010
I have been wanting to write about self-expression for some time.
It just takes me a while to sit down and focus, especially when I feel the subject deserves significant attention.
Let us begin.
I like writing. A lot.
I like writing so much that I am still scarred by failing to separate the "a" from the "lot", in "a lot", and writing "alot" on the blackboard in Mr. Agar's year seven English class. Deeply, deeply scarred.
Though I have always written, I have never been particularly interested in writing a novel.
It is not that I have no less respect or admiration for those who choose this form[at], it has just never appealed to me.
In year eleven I chose an elective titled "Media Studies" and was informally introduced to what lies behind the camera when it comes to making filmsies... up until this point it hadn't really occurred to me that someone is actually responsible for writing the film. I was always so emotionally invested in the films I had seen, that I hadn't fully comprehended that what I was watching initially existed in a written form... a script.
... I was in love with "The 3 Ninjas" films (mainly "3 Ninjas" and "Three Ninjas Kick Back"). I still remember re-winding the moment where Tum Tum chokes on one of his jelly beans after his brother turns off their bedroom light.
... I also remember how distraught I was after watching a movie about a man who dies in a car accident and, after being reincarnated as a labrador, runs back to his family (wife and children) and attempts to communicate that he is their husband/father while, of course, having to watch his wife grow to love another man, who (I think!) was the man driving the car that forced our main man-dog protagonist to crash at the beginning of the film... though I am not completely sure about that last part... He must then come to the shocking realisation that his family have moved on and are now happy with their new lives... oh. my. god. As the credits rolled I was a blubbering nine-year-old mess.
Now having realised that these realities had all been constructed, it was an odd feeling - somewhat bittersweet... in one way it seemed to undermine how absorbed/invested I had been in these, and many other, films - but it also opened my eyes to what was a completely undiscovered area of writing.
Fast forward (from year eleven) five years.
Having now made a couple of short films, but still very very much learning, I am currently working on two scripts, one of which I am co-writing with a friend and have had a considerable amount of difficulty trying to figure out the primary reason why I am interested in exploring the thoughts and experiences of the main character... and how he relates to me and, perhaps - hopefully, to many many others.
I won't give anything away regarding the plot, because it's not entirely relevant here, but it has been another instance in which I am reminded that I need clarity on why I write something, and why I feel it is important to write, before I actually write it. right.
So. I moved away from the idea for a week or two and the central theme of the story began to surface... becoming, eventually, incredibly clear.
Twas a huge relief.
I then [quickly] moved on to how I perceived self expression, and why it was important to me... and why I feel it is important to/for everyone.
I also had to figure out what, exactly, it meant - to me... which is difficult and annoying because defining something subjective is, I suppose, impossible. However, in order to communicate effectively, I always feel you should at least try and personalise how you interpret a concept... especially one as ambiguous as self-expression.
So. Self-expression initially related to me in regards to writing and, naturally, a list of somewhat associated creative fields followed... painting, photography, performance of any kind, the endless avenues of design, music, sculpture, film and many many more.
Though all of these areas felt like the most obvious answers - and, perhaps, slightly less immediate and important.
One thing I feel that all forms of self-expression have in common is a desire to communicate a thought or feeling in an honest or truthful way.
So. If self-expression is about honest communication then surely it can also be found in far more common, 'every-day-areas'... for instance, every day conversation.
The term self-expression had then slowly started to change form... no longer did it necessarily need a 'creative pre-requisite' but, instead, a slightly more general (though arguably far more difficult) requirement of honesty throughout every day life.
Yes. I know. I know. I know! Being honest is often very hard. It can be hurtful and confronting.
but. For today, I have no interest in focusing on the negative effects of honesty. Instead. We are here to focus on the positives... so, shall we call it "responsible honesty"... or perhaps "compassionate honesty" ? I don't know... Hopefully I don't need to provide a label... I trust that you [kinda] understand what I mean. Plus. Labels suck. They limit and simplify. They ignore outliers, inconsistencies and complexities.
So. In a way. When I refer to "self-expression", I am only aligning it with something like "one's attempt to communicate a thought or feeling honestly"... and, another important thing to note is that I feel the desire to communicate honestly requires the participation of more than one party... acknowledging communication as a plural - not a singular - something that requires an element of reciprocity. Maybe, in other words, "self-expression" is therefore not [just] a selfish act... not at all. it is an ENabler of conversation... not a DISabler. Yes. That's important to note.
So. I had now, in a roundabout way, defined what I felt was the crux of this story. So now I had to figure why it was worth exploring. That is, why did I feel that self-expression was so valuable?
I think self-expression is rather complex.
It highlights the way in which we are all uniquely isolated in our own experiences, whilst simultaneously reminding us that we are often feeling very similar emotions. It is therefore incredibly aware of both the individual and the collective, which is rather powerful.
So, why then, is self-expression/honest communication often DIScouraged... as opposed to ENcouraged ? ? ?
I think it can be reduced to 'fear'.
Vague, I know.
As outlined above, one of the results of expressing oneself is that it can feel like a very isolating action... and, initially, it probably is... and because people want to feel safe, they elect not to isolate themselves in any way, staying close to a group... and maybe sometimes (only maybe! remember, there are no drastic conclusions here) they begin to lose their unique perspective, choosing to view the world around them through the eyes of a pack.
Now. I don't feel I need to go into how I feel about 'groups' or 'packs' ... I think sometimes there can be positive effects but, often, there can be hugely damaging results... packs need to protect themselves, often at any cost, but that is where I shall leave it for now.
As I approach the end of this post, I want to touch on a certain environment we create that, I feel, does very little to encourage self-expression.
Problems often start at a young age.
To overlook the importance of the experiences of both children and adolescents is a very ignorant, dangerous disposition.
Children are malleable, incredibly receptive to any rules they are ordered (either overtly or subtly) to abide by. so. what are they being taught?
I feel that one relevant piece of information is the hierarchy of our schooling system which, I believe, is a relatively universal hierarchy.
Somewhere at the top:
Somewhere in the middle:
History and Politics.
English, Literature and Philosophy.
Physical Education, Health.
Somewhere near the bottom:
I know that looking at this structure is by no means new or enlightening, however it does indicate that throughout schooling the idea of expressing oneself - one's thoughts and feelings in relation to those around them - is of very little importance or value and, in fact, if anything, the idea is discouraged.
So, as to continue focusing on the positive... self expression ideally creates an arena where honest interaction can take place. By encouraging and facilitating honest interaction we can reach, or at least aim to reach, an understanding and respect between one another... an appreciation of each other and our unique set of circumstances and experiences.
Without this desire to enable open conversation, I can see only negative results. A breakdown of communication leading to an inevitable separation, misunderstanding, ignorance of one another's experiences... which can then become judgement, prejudice and eventually we begin to create an environment where those who care not to question feel they can 'hate' another human being.
I find it rather terrifying that opinions... thoughts... and then, naturally, feelings, are often the result of a lack of information... not from a well researched/well-informed point of view.
I suppose the question is... what kind of environment do you want yourself, and your loved one's, to be a part of?
One that generates hate or one that attempts to love?
Yes. It seems paralysingly obvious...
Yet we still discourage self-expression.
a mysterious thing.
Though I hardly feel it is essential to make eye contact throughout the entirety of a conversation, I become incredibly aware of its importance when it is neglected or avoided.
I feel making eye contact is an important action to commence any interaction... however minimal (the interaction, not the eye contact).
It seems to stabilise things.
The topic of eye contact has been irritating my consciousness over the last few weeks after one particular interaction I had with an employee of Baker's Delight.
I entered the store. The only customer. There was only one employee behind the counter as it was very early in the morning (the raspberry and white chocolate scone I purchased was still warm. heavenly creatures). She was placing the fresh loaves of bread onto one of the stands and, noticing me in her peripheral vision, she spoke... in bold.
"Hi, how [are] you going?"
- No eye contact -
"Well thanks, how are you?"
- I waited for her to turn to me and engage. No deal -
"Yeah, good thanks, what would you like?"
- Still no eyes -
- She turns, walks over to the counter, listening to my order... her eyes directed downward -
"One of these ham and cheese things, and a raspberry and white chocolate scone please"
- she removes the items from their trays and places them into separate bags. she calculates a total on the register -
- she looks up! finally! I see her lonely blue eyes. She sees my lonely grey eyes. Her hand hovers at the counter, awaiting my payment, a $5 note -
"30 cents change"
- no eyes -
"Have a nice day"
- I exit the store, underwhelmed -
One moment of obligatory eye contact as she asked for my money.
Now. My expectation is not for customer service to be an incredibly personal process. In fact, if I were to choose between Baker's Delight Lady and those who go out of their way to be overly personable, I'd most likely choose Baker's Delight Lady. However, from the outset, being asked "how are you?" by someone who remains focused on a stack of bread just didn't, and doesn't, sit all that well with me. If you're going to ask me a question about my feelings, I'd like to respond by looking at your pupils. Then we can be friends.
I suppose it moves into the topic of the somewhat robotic nature of modern customer service... a selection of practiced questions, inoffensive responses and pathetic platitudes that further solidify our temporary roles for our temporary interaction.
Well. You know what? I find the role of a typical customer an extremely boring role to play. and I bet you find the role of a typical employee incredibly tedious as well! So. How about I play Guy and you play... whoever you are, and maybe I'll buy those expensive pantaloons that nobody ever has, and then you'll get promoted to the Island of Innocence and Love where you will be Queen for eternity.
Think about it.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
I have been wanting to write a blog for a while.
I feel it's a suitable medium to blend the private activity of writing with the public arena of the internet.
I feel like it would typically take a writer a long time to reach an audience - and if you are able blog interesting material it may speed up the process.
Now that I have stated some obvious bullshit, I shall preface my first [actual] blog with some kind of statement of intention... an opportunity for me to adjust your expectations (if they exist) so that you are not misguided in what my deal is.
So. My strength is not in discovering new music, taking fascinating photos or drawing beautiful pictures ... my understanding, or knowledge, of history, politics and the environment would be well below average - which is not necessarily to say I'm not interested in these areas... I just find myself getting distracted by something else.
I'm sure I could use many words for this 'something else' (not because I have a particularly large vocabulary (( though I do visit thesaurus.com regularly for funzies )) but because I'm simply never certain/confident ((( see! ))) of/in the word(s) I decide to use.
Hmmm. I enjoy making new grammatical rules as I write... above, if you need parentheses within parentheses, just double (or triple) them up! Genius.
Anyway. For now. The word I will use for what often becomes my main interest when writing is ... BEHAVIOUR - or, more specifically, HUMAN BEHAVIOUR.
Yes. I know this is an incredibly vague title - but it will have to do for now.
Before I go. The relevance of the pencil...
I equate my writing (or, perhaps, my thoughts) to that of a sketch. I understand that initially sounds like wank... and, for that, I am mildly ashamed. but, please, read on...
l am able to lay down the basic structure of my ideas and observations, but they are never pronounced with a great degree of confidence (like, say, a permanent marker). They are always subject to change and (hopefully) growth - and they are never conclusive or definitive.
I don't really like the idea that people feel they can make absolute conclusions on the topic of human behaviour. Maybe they can get close to them - and I have no problems with contentions or theories - I just don't like the confidence of a conclusion all that much. It suggests, to me, that you may have stopped listening to the other people that wish to participate in the conversation... and, if you speak, I think it is a fair expectation that you must always be listening.
So. Yes. A sketch.
I know... I am often disgusted by our tendency to talk in metaphors as well - though I assure you, I will try to keep it to a minimum.
That'll be all for now.