Sunday, 21 March 2010

Daring to reveal

The irony of blogging is that people are attempting to 'connect' through a medium that is essentially alienating (the scenario of millions of people sitting privately alone in their rooms in front of a computer screen). The attraction for the blogger is the possibility of having a dialogue - even if it remains an unspoken one, of a silent reader - with someone remote: and thereby feeling uninhibited in terms of being fundamentally open and communicative.

It of course depends on the nature of the blog: if it is simply a place for covering external entities (i.e. reviews of music, books, art, webpages, etc.; documentary of current affairs or some specialist subject; or perhaps merely a "meta-blog" covering the blog or digital  landscape), or if it is closer to the more quiescent origin of the "blog": namely, an online diary. A public forum for one's private meditations.

The latter is only one remove from the now old-fashioned notion of a  personal diary; somewhere where you scribe your most private thoughts and personal matters. Having a place to record such meditations is, for someone of a more introverted nature, an almost essential part of their self-awareness, of their identity. Of course, nearly everyone would  benefit from a greater degree of internalisation, particularly in this era which overwhelmingly favours everything external and places the highest value in the merely transient experience rather than the subsistent core of actual being.

So, naturally, when asked in common conversation as to how you've been and what you've been up to, the answer would normally consist of a catalogue of activities and "real-world" experiences: not a chart of the movements in your inner landscape. Yet it is the geology of the inner landscape that dictates the real thoroughgoing quality of resultant structures of your external life: for you bring yourself to everything you do; even if, again ironically, the patterns of most human interactions require you to retreat into yourself and project a mere social persona for the situation - most especially at work, of course.

Despite its limitations, language is nevertheless our primary tool for a communication of the deeper aspects of human existence. Yet we use it sparingly by degree of the amount of excess that conventional etiquette requires. Even amongst close friends this remains true: the very vagueness and ambiguity that the modality of human language makes eminently possible is used to merely hint at the underlying mystery of life that we each, as self-conscious beings, must necessary experience  on whatever level. Yet rather than penetrate further, we usually all tend to prefer to skip around this vague abstract space rather than attempt to go into that space with another and share the real authentic experience of being.

Usually it is easier to obliquely point towards or express via the alternative language of art (of whatever type) the more intimate experience of this real inner world than risk having a meaningful conversation about it. Or this is certainly my experience of life so far. Certainly one of the defining characteristics for me in the progression through my twenties is a movement from the more "hard" certainties of the vagaries of human experience to a "softer" ambiguity. Looking back, as a very young man (i.e. 18, 19, 20) one likes to think that one has clearly understood and arrived at certain decisions as to "who" you are and the "what" of truth. Yet in reality I realise now that I ascribed too much importance to things that actually matter little - ultimately - and simultaneously, disregarded or considered "dealt with" things that actually matter the most.

To give a very brief example, consider symbols. Symbols are used with wild abandon today. They're just a collection of lines and graphics, just an abstract logo. Yet the occult power of symbols is phenomenal - literally. A symbol is more than just a handy visual representation of some entity. A symbol is an aggregation of values: moreover, it utilises the power of the supersensible. A materialistic account of the nature of symbols would not be able to do justice to the tremendous power that they wield over the human collective: history demonstrates this point more than ably. The symbol is not merely just the referent of a known quantity: it is also explicates part of the directly inexplicable beyond that motivates all human life. An effective symbol merely grows in power as it ages: it accretes value by acting as a focal point for the accumulation of meanings imbued upon it. As such it becomes all of these things, and yet simultaneously none of them. It becomes both more and less than every meaning put upon it.

To name something is to give it power; yet to attempt to name something tends to distill it down into something that as yet it is not. An empty nominalism.

In the mundane sphere, every powerful brand knows the power of symbol: the most powerful corporations can project and extend their power through their mere brand logo. Successful brands cause people to "buy into" their brand - particularly in the world of fashion. Buying the particular brand isn't just about buying into the particular qualities, features, or look of the item in question: more importantly, it is buying into a collective shared position towards the world. It is about expressing status and self-identity. I use "self-identity" in an ironic sense, since this movement towards the outer is in fact the movement away from self-identity and self-knowledge towards the commodity "self" and a lack of self-knowledge.

Incidentally, this isn't a one-sided diatribe against fashion or indeed any type of brands: some brands do rightly possess power because their products are of a good quality or their clothes do have style. It is possible for fashion and style, on some level, to exhibit itself as "living art".

Anyway, wrapping up the asides to return to my original point: some things are a lot more important than you realise, and for all its abuses language is probably the most potent tool we have for communicating authentic human experience about the deepest aspects of life.

Yet we rarely use it, or certainly nowhere near as much as we should, with even our closest friends. Instead we merely make the quick quip or the brief soliloquy, exchange the knowing glance, and nod and merely say "I understand". Which we do - but only up to point.

So, to come full circle back to my original discussion about blogs, so that "shyness of exposing identity" - or perhaps you could call it simply intimacy? - expands even to the online sphere of blogs. Namely: I have some very good real world friends, but in actuality, virtually none of them know of the existence of this blog at all.

It could well be an act of too much self-absorption to consider that anyone else really wants to read this: perhaps the vast majority of all diaries are of little interest to anyone except the author? Yet one has to believe that when one is discussing the commonalities of base human existence, that perhaps one has something that is of interest to someone else.

I guess what we want to know is: what is their experience of life? What is being a human for them? And most importantly, how does it compare to mine?

In reading Hegel at the moment, I fully grasp, appreciate, and now pretty much agree with his point that true self-consciousness only comes about with the recognition of another self-consciousness. Self-consciousness emerges from the interaction with another knowing self-consciousness. Extending that logic then, I hope that perhaps by knowing other people better, I come to know myself better.

Incidentally, being in a close, loving relationship doesn't automatically guarantee this greater self-awareness. We tend to think of such an arrangement as being the best place to foster real genuine human communication, but as we all know well, sometimes relationships proceed  far too much on always assuming you can "read their mind" and often, even in this most intimate of human arrangements, the two (or more!) people do not necessarily really open up. Sharing the intimate deepest level of human experience shouldn't just necessarily be restricted to your lover, or a close family member: you should probably extend it to your close friends too. For if they are real friends, they will probably welcome going on this journey with you. And any stable relationship has no fear about deeper friendships with other people outside that relationship, since they know they will always reserve a certain key core (particularly around the sexual psyche) only for each other. Rightfully so. Such a movement can only have positive effects on their own relationship by enriching it. Certainly I became too insular with my lover when I last had a long term relationship some years ago; we ended up secluding nearly everyone else from our own little world; eventually this has a weakening effect on your relationship as you deny a whole range of other human interactions and connections.

I have often been described as "too intense" by various people - fatefully, normally by the female in question during botched (at an early stage) attempts at romance. I think I'm finally coming to understand what this fully means. However, if by my very desire for openness they find that intimidating, I feel sad both for my loss and theirs. For they made a hasty assumption as to the type of man I am, or who I can be to be around - I do have a lighter, humorous side! - and do not desire to dominate anyone through an authoritarian personality (though I do believe that is is healthy to have an interplay of power between two people; playing with power, by alternating roles, helps to avoid one person becoming too dominant). Simultaneously, perhaps it is through an unconscious belief that they do not have "enough" self to give back: again, they have prematurely shot themselves down. Or finally, perhaps because I am too "cerebral" they think I destroy the "mystery" of human experience by attempting to understand it: I would argue the contrary is in fact true. The mystery becomes more powerful the better you understand it.

Or, the final resting point of self-analysis: perhaps they simply don't like me and I talk too much.

In any case, I have decided to "open up" this blog to a few select friends. It's here if they ever want to read it. It seemed rather disingenuous to risk sharing my "inner world" with complete strangers on the other side of the planet, and yet not do so with people I've know for years who live just a few streets away.

I'll never have the more meaningful interactions I seek without taking the risk to open up more. I do not know whether any of these words in the ether are of any real genuine interest to them, or whether in fact, I simply ramble on far too much, in my own running dialogue with myself. But perhaps they will learn a few new things about me - and in return, I will learn more about them. They may perhaps find some things that are rather surprising: certainly, it is true to say that I consider that I don't really know hardly any of my friends, so I believe that likewise that applies towards me. Not on a truly deep level. We skirt around the outside, getting some semblance of each other, without ever really knowing that person. (Obviously men tend to be far worse, in general, at "emotional openness" than women). Dare we open up to each other?

All the modern tools for connecting actually tend to end up acting as masks and blinds. You construct a Facebook persona: but that Facebook persona is not you. It is merely a strange analogue. Everyone then interacts and has a relationship with this analogue rather than with you.

The modern world tends to alienate us all: we need to try and reverse this trend towards us all becoming individual atoms completely tied up in our own small microcosmos.

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