Sunday, 19 August 2012

Partially for Hystery: Communication Via, and the Possibilities and Tyrannies of Stories

I wrote this post 3 weeks ago, just as the Olympics were starting.  And decided it was too regular BJ-ish to post, i.e. a bit sad, a bit pessimistic, etc, despite its lighter bits.  Then I read a post by Hystery, and decided maybe it should go up after all, for what its worth. Even a tiny point can be worth making.  And I may not have made it at all well in the comment I left her (too much me, not enough point); so I make it here, instead.  It's not a direct reply to what she said, but it's a related issue.

I was walking down the hill, and it started to rain.  I had forgotten my  umbrella.  (I love my umbrella.  Its completely see-through, with a white rim and handle.  Like many I used to see in 70’s films.  Took me ages to find it.  A while ago see-through umbrellas were a bit in vogue again, but they were see-through with patterns and colours – busy looking.  Not properly see-through alone.  I finally found this one on one of those stalls outside London tube stations, that sell London bus fridge magnets, and those ‘my brother went to London and all I got was this lousy T-shirt’ stalls.  Sitting there all perfect and see-through and lonesome.  And cheap.  Not anymore though.  Now it’s united with me, its dutiful soul-mate.  Every time it rains and I have this umbrella, I love that I can see up, and all the light comes through.  I can see the raindrops.  Hear them patter on the plastic.  There I am, in my own dome of dryness.  It’s a lovely thing.)

Anyway.  I forgot it.

So I was walking down the hill.  It started to rain, quite heavily, quite quickly.  In a way this was just fine; I had just washed my hair, so I was all wet already.

Also it meant the sky did that great thing it does before rainstorms.  It lowered.  Grey grey blanketing sky.  Deep dusky grey, softly heavy.  Plush toy stuffing.  Some rumbles of thunder.  (Which explained why I had a headache too; I’m like a barometer: air pressure up or down – I can tell you from the throbbing of my temples.)  So all the shininess went off everything.  It was still light, but dull.  Not boring dull, just restful dull.  No strong edges on things, no glaring contrasts.  Just a light that takes you mentally from the 10.30 a.m. in the August morning it was, and puts you in at about 4.30 p.m. on an October afternoon instead.  You get an ‘oh, soon hometime, curl up’ feeling.  A winding down light.  Did wonders for my headache.

Rumbles of thunder.  Sorry to be stereotypical, but it did, really.  Cliches are there for a reason.  There – it just did it again.  It moved across the sky like rolling rocks, from left to right.  Bowling balls of Thor (and I forgot the umbrella courtesy of Loki, of course).

I go down the hill, enjoying the feeling of my trainers making that slurpy sticky sound on the wet tarmac.

Against the lowered grey sky, I see a house roof, deep brown with dark green trees far behind, stark in the sky.  On top of the roof stands a scrawny blackbird.  Just mooching about.  In a strutty way.  For a second, as I see the bird, feel the rain on my hair and face, and listen to the gurgling of it running down the gutters at the sides of the road and swirling off to the drains at the bottom of the hill, I think: all I need is this.  These moments of air and space, and small droplets of beauty.  A scrawny bird, a grey sky, some rain.

Moments like these make me who I am.  I could freeze time in tiny spaces like this and watch raindrops land in spirals on concrete, stretch it forever.  Total peace.

But just in case you feel I am going a mite soft, there…the other side of the coin is something like this.  A few days before that last bit…

You know how I’m always saying stories are the only things that make sense?  Because regardless how Kafkaesque (and therefore almost lifelike) they are, they are still stories.

Stories are composed by one person at a time.  No matter how different (and lifelike) the characters seem, they are all in one person’s head.  Echoes of types/sorts/parts of that person’s self.

It is one person talking (at length, and doing all the voices/parts) to themselves.

By that token – if anything (any conflict, problem, misunderstanding – war) gets sorted out at the end, it will be because one person finally understood all the Points Of View of themselves (and was able to create some sort of compromise or resolution through arbitrating the relevance’s of those views).

I had the sort of day today, riven with conflict, where I got to a point of defensive closedown.  I decided “only stories make sense, not real life” and shut up shop.  Retreated therein.

This is also a lie, this tidy little defensive statement I told myself.

The reason stories make sense is that they are lies.  Allsorts of conveniences and contrivances occur there, that in life, do not.  Will not.  Could not. 

Because we don’t understand the 70 thousand shades of people of all ages and wisdoms living in our own heads.  How can we hope to understand someone else’s colony? 

I read the blog the other day, of someone who (possibly rightfully?) isn’t talking to me, or me her.  I loved the blog.  Yet I can’t have a peaceful conversation with her, we misread one another constantly.  (I want to post a link to it here, it's so lovely, but I won't as she may be unhappy with that.)

We can all communicate VIA stuff as much as we like: adore each others writing, love each other’s art, dance, music, taste in humour or clothes or colours or lifestyle.

If we are careful to remain as empathic as possible, we can be friends with each other.  It may even feel easy sometimes.  For a while.

But you know what?  Pessimistic thought for the day: I don’t think there will ever be peace.

Because stories are basically beautiful lies, patchworked senses of self, ventriloquism of our endlessly fragmented perceptions stretched flying; faulty memories sparkled as ‘truth’.

We can try.  But each of us is a player in what to each of us is the epic story of our own lives.  How can the arrogance and ego of each and every Hero and Heroine, Protagonists All, ever accept the bit roles (or worse, the utter non-importance) we have in the lives of others?

If I can’t even understand why someone I love very much was unreasonable today, twice, (and was I too?...probably…) – then what hope for…extrapolate outwards.

And have a gin.

Put on some music.  You’ll think differently if you put on Handel or Mozart as opposed to Fields of the Nephilim or the soundtrack to 28 Days Later…so many variables.

But no peace, I fear.

No two stories tally.  Eye witness accounts notoriously differ.

I shan’t leave it like that though.  Goodness no!  Because that’s the thing.  The scrawny bird, the raindrops, the woollen grey sky (it’s that historical weather again) – and then those nasty sensations of dislocation, miscommunication, alienation.  Both are entirely true.  At the time.  One does not cancel the other.  One does not mean more than the other.  The rather unpleasant truth (for me, at least) I feel, is that both are equally valid and mean something.

It is the bravery that is accepting them both as reality that will help mend the upset stomach that is my mind, so often.

And the fact that if I try my best to listen, to really hear other people when they talk – and to try and put myself in their shoes, I may not end up agreeing with them (no, not at all) – but I will be able to appreciate their standpoints and talk to them that much more effectively.  From where they are.

Bridges can be built.  Don’t despair entirely.  Don’t be so tired you forget why you tread water.

If you read this, and for just a second, you saw that thin little black bird, dark against the rainy sky, and you heard the rain gurgling into the drains – then there is hope.  For allsorts of things involving us humans.

Because I let you in my head, you came to visit and you went away again, unscathed.  You might not have seen exactly what I described (of course not), instead your own approximation of it.  But we shared a vision, which hopefully wasn’t horrible in any way?!

So whilst my feelings when upset were true, quite nastily true, for me – so is this, now.  If we try to keep listening, and seeing, and not shoring up our own positions so much that we can no longer see anyone else’s, amazing things can still be done.  Cities built, cathedrals, books written, films made – millions entertained and given breathing space, a holiday from their worries[1].  It’s not a little thing.

Like I said before, it’s all about empathy with each other. 

That’s my tuppenceworth anyway.

[1] It may not be the start of world peace in particular, but people watching films and reading books and listening to music are not at that moment out being un-peaceful: they are communicating with another’s mind via…And things that help you try to make sense of other things – they are good for exercising the mind.  Understanding anything is never bad, and may come in useful.

'Communication Via' (copyright!!)  is an idea I've had since I was really little.  I think we humans often have great trouble communicating with each other, and do it through other things instead, often much better.

1 comment:

  1. You have my gratitude. Your words are a treasure.
    Bright blessing,