Friday, July 23, 2010
2. Self Expression - Part One
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.