Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Forced Perspective

I am human. Nothing human is alien to me. --Terence

Responding to a comment left on his very thought-provoking post about resonance, Michael asks:

How does it happen for you? With art or with real people? Have you noticed how automatic it is to slide back to the comfort of your "self" when the going gets rough?

[I highly recommend you have a look at his post first; for context, but more so for your own edification.]

When art resonates with me, it’s as though the art has been there, in my being, all along; its creator simply slid a panel back to present it to me, or plucked it from me, secretly, before planting it in my path. There’s a Yes! that occurs, like finally recognizing the form of a loved one in the distance, across a crowded airport. Sometimes it is so exactly the contents of a particular idea or flight of fancy I may have harbored for years that it is almost painful to see it or hear it in the light of day. Always, there is an overwhelming gratitude toward the artist. Thank you for making me less alone… thank you for making me the same as you… thank you for reminding me that actually, we are all one.

When the resonance is with a person, it’s as though that person’s image hums and vibrates, maybe levitates, in my mind’s eye, brighter and slightly higher than the rest of people in my consciousness. Without the use of words, I think of them as The Ones Who Get It. They grow in numbers over the years, and I can go long periods of time without seeing or communicating with them; our relationships are not affected. They are real, and they know that I am real. I know that I can be myself with them, and they with me, and our ugliness doesn’t matter in the way we tend to believe it does. It doesn’t mark us anything other than human. We are beautiful and hideous. We try again, every day.

Forced resonance occurs quite differently. It’s nearly the exact opposite, in fact. It’s an exercise I do to keep myself humble [stop laughing, sometimes it works!]. I think of it as worming my way into their beings, setting the stage from the inside out, much the way we were taught to prepare our characters in theater classes. What does this person fear, love, worship? After all’s said and done, those three concepts form us, for better or for worse. We have the same basic needs, yes; it’s our props that make us distinct from one another. Considered from that angle, it is less difficult to imagine how the devil’s shoe-shine boy [with a nod to Michael] leaves behind, come next month, an 8-year legacy of idiocy and destruction. [Please note: I did not say “easy to imagine” but only “less difficult” to do so.]

And that’s where things get scary. Because if it is less difficult to imagine how someone stands at the helm of a country and allows it to be destroyed, then perhaps one is only a few thoughts away from completely understanding how something like that occurs. And if one can be something almost resembling sympathetic, even if only in one’s most private thoughts, to a person responsible for something terrible, then how can one confidently point the finger?

Let’s not be mistaken: there is right and there is wrong. That is what I believe. But we are all wrong, aren’t we? Aren’t we wrong, in some way, every day? And if we can be a little wrong, we can be a lot wrong. Horribly wrong. Under the right circumstances, it could happen. Couldn’t it? If you were slightly less able-minded. Slightly less diligent or disciplined. A little lazier. A little sadder. Couldn’t something slip by you? I know I’ve had plenty of close calls. So what right do I have to criticize? Well, it’s my country, it’s my planet; sure I have a right to criticize, to speak out. No one can take that right from me. But I believe there is a difference between speaking out against actions and policies, and speaking out in condemnation of another human being. [Feel free to point out that, this being the case, it's somewhat problematic for me to refer to someone as the devil's shoe-shine boy. I know, isn't it?]

That said, were someone to harm a loved one, you’d hear a different story from me. Absolutely, you would. My aim, though, my goal, is to remember that we are all one. My instructions, as a follower of Christ, are simple: 1. Love God; 2. Love my neighbor. Running through that little exercise of forced resonance keeps me honest. And it makes the spontaneous resonance all the sweeter.

How about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this matter.


Michael said...

Hi Emma, I was hoping you would respond in a post. Thanks!

Thanks for pointing out my name-calling of Bush. It shows me how easy it is to let my judgmental self open his big mouth.

I'm with you 100% on this post. I'm not Christian anymore, but that doesn't matter. There's a clear spiritual angle to the theme.

And, of course, artists always lead the way. Right? Curiosity, imagination, and empathy keep us moving forward as a culture, as a race.

BTW, I love your description of the feeling of resonance, like recognizing someone in a crowded airport.

Emma said...

You know, Michael, I re-read my post and it really does sound as though I'm calling you out on the Bush thing! I'm so sorry, that was not my intention--it was meant to take the piss out of my own reference to him that way. I've changed the wording now to reflect that, hopefully. And for the record, my own big-mouthed person is pretty nigh always at the ready.

I think you're right; artists always do lead the way. Artists are the questioners, explorers and creators. I daresay artists go several steps further than philosophers, doing something in addition to talking about it and believing it. That thought tends to propel me when I am inactive for too long.

Thanks for your prompt, I really enjoyed having to flex my thinking-writing muscle!

Michael said...

I think you called us both out on the name calling. I really like the phrase, but ... I suppose there are enough people calling him names.

I changed my post too.

Best, M