I am a great fan of movies. It is with forever growing despair that I find myself cringing as I struggle to get through some of these modern “blockbusters”. I grew up in a home where it was simply understood that cursing (or as Velimir Khlebnikov put it “ear pollution”) was forbidden under any circumstances, even if an elephant was sitting on your toe. In addition when they started kissing on TV, father would dive for the remote and quickly switch it, and as for sex scenes – you’re kidding right? Even animal documentary propagation of the species was considered rather distasteful. Such things were simply understood. No we weren’t religious fanatics. My mum always said young ladies simply weren’t to watch such things, it wasn’t classy.
I suppose such an austere Victorian upbringing has made me somewhat a prude in old age. Nevertheless what I long for in a movie is really quite simple – I want a plot. Hurling expletives at me for hours on end is simply a bore. It actually takes talent to write a “thrashing down” with wit. To do it with a tirade of vulgarity is simply that – vulgar. It gives one zero pause for thought, it is forgotten seconds after it is unleashed, and you’re left with little more than a quesy feeling of having had something foul fly into your senses – an unwarranted intrusion much like a mosquito at supper.
Not to mention the sex scenes which are all over my TV and movies these days. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happens after that passionate kiss. Seriously you don’t have to prove it to me, I’m not that dense. I long for the days that after the passionate kiss we simply fade to the curtains fluttering gently in the wind for 10 seconds and then move on with the plot. That is assuming you’ve actually found the time to fit one in.
There are numerous passages of beauty in Alexander Radishchev’s “Man’s Mortality and Immortality”. As an armchair linguist, I was particularly struck by his thoughts regarding speech. With speech he explains how we transform things into sounds, which coagulate into words, which in turn illuminate the existence of the “thing” being described to those both near and far. It is one of the miraculous marvels of being human that we can describe both material and abstract things that appear in our conscious and our subconscious to others. Yet as awe inducing as this facet of everyday human life is, it is not without its limitations.
For that communicative ability only extends to those of our same species. We can sit and chat with plants and birds all day long, and whilst they may infer some of our meaning from our body language (or with plants in the sensation of our touch), it is highly unlikely that even a small percentage, and in most cases none at all, will be intelligible as to our true intent in initiating the communication to begin with.
As Radishchev says even amongst one another we can only give a representation of true meaning. We can describe what our sensory devices detect and what our imaginations create. Yet to truly describe one another from the inside out, our “essence” so to speak is still an impossibility.
Were I a medical person I could very well describe to you in excruciating detail every last cell and bone in your body and even how you came to be created (which may not be so terribly excruciating). Yet despite my thoroughness, I still wouldn’t be able to pinpoint all that you believe in and why because even you don’t really know. Aside from religious explanations, we don’t really know why the universe exists or why our species ended up on earth. We don’t really even know what compels us to keep the status quo going. So whilst we know that we’re here and we’re able to talk about it, we’re still in a thick fog when it comes to the bigger picture. All of the sophistication that our communicative abilities afford us comes up short when it comes to answer one of the simplest yet most complex questions ever formulated in human speech – “why?”
Shortly after the death of Charles Dickens, a sketch was done by Samuel Luke Fildes called, “The Empty Chair.” ( http://tinyurl.com/oqq366h) Aside from mourning the loss of one of our greatest writers, to me it is also symbolic of the vacancy of social consciousness that has grown stronger and stronger since his passing.
It seems that in the case of poverty many still use blanket terms to in essence cover up the problem. They are the “homeless”, “the poor”, “welfare cases” and the like. They become a nameless, anonymous mass – an “other” that seemingly resides outside of “normal” society. No longer do we have Nell, Oliver, David, Nicholas and the like.
When stopped at traffic lights and observing those begging alongside the street, I sometimes wonder how those of us locking our doors and averting our gaze appear from their perspective. Yet we almost always do it don’t we? It’s instinctive to reach for that lock and look the other way. And consider what I have just said – “their” perspective – as if those alongside the road are somehow different than those in the vehicles.
Just like Ebenezer, the thought that there are other people to deal with “that” still reigns supreme. It washes our hands of responsibility. Write a check and it will go away, or at least be put out of sight as shelters are marginalized into parts of the city that are well away from the vast majority of the populace. The general consensus often seems that no children are involved, they are all drug addicts, mentally ill or unwilling to work. They enjoy the freedom of life on the road and do not want to be confined by societal expectations of a “normal” life. Why do we believe these things? We can’t get enough of reality TV but we can’t run fast enough away from reality. Put it in a box, not within reach of our touch.
There is a brilliant film by Armenian director Artur Aristakisian called Ladoni or “Hands” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGBe_2sLlG0) in which a blind boy who begs on the streets is told by his parents that all in the world are blind just like him. Perhaps that is why they don’t see him and help him.
So who will fill Dicken’s chair? Who has the courage to lead us all together as a singular people out of the blindness and into mutual understanding that together we can overcome obstacles, whereas divided our moral base and soon thereafter our entire society will eventually collapse under the weight of complicit blindness.
It is rare if ever that local newscasts interest me even remotely, but the other day there was a rare gem indeed. A man had been pulled over by the police for one thing or another and he complained to the cameraman, “I am constantly persecuted because of my complexity.” Too right mate, aren’t we all. 😉
Only two groups of people are unintentionally imaginative – children and madmen. They can build completely surrealist landscapes in a matter of seconds and completely believe in its authenticity as a viable entity without question. Whilst writers, painters and other creators alike spend agonizing hours drafting, crafting and revising similar alternate universes of escapism.
There is a moment when the playing field is leveled though. That sliver of a vortex that opens all possibilities, if only we can remember them upon awakening, namely our dreams.
As noted by Charles Dickens:
Are not the sane and the insane equal at night as the sane lie a dreaming? Are not all of us outside this hospital, who dream, more or less in the condition of those inside it, every night of our lives? Are we not nightly persuaded, as they daily are, that we associate preposterously with kings and queens, emperors and empresses, and notabilities of all sorts? Do we not nightly jumble events and personages and times and places, as these do daily? Are we not sometimes troubled by our own sleeping inconsistencies, and do we not vexedly try to account for them or excuse them, just as these do sometimes in respect of their waking delusions? Said an afflicted man to me, when I was last in a hospital like this, ‘Sir, I can frequently fly.’ I was half ashamed to reflect that so could I—by night.” The Uncommercial Traveller,
It seems that so many social media websites are geared almost exclusively to “sharing” links. Whether it is paintings, photography, quotes and in rare instances written pieces that take you more than 30 seconds to read, practically everything is “borrowed” from somewhere else.
Incidentally, hardly if ever is credit given to the actual source that created the thing in the first place. It’s as if any creation is the property of the world to be used however any individual deems fit. Fine and well, but it would seem to be polite at least to give credit where credit is due. Unappreciated geniuses don’t tend to appreciate being constantly robbed of the fruits of their labours.
What I find disappointing is that we seem to be a society bent on cycling things over and over again ad nauseam like a washing machine. What we are in essence “cleansing” is the impulse to create.
Creativity is certainly not an easy endeavor. It is often an intense, frustrating and time consuming process that gives birth to everything from disappointment to unexpected delights, and in its most sparkling moments – sheer sublimity. It takes more than a two second click. Yet its ramifications are boundless. Isn’t it worth the effort?
It is with bemused interest that I often run across all of these petitions and causes and group requests to join and fight the “good fight.” In particular I have recently received all sorts of invitations and comments regarding those who are against xenophobia and various other societal menaces such as racism, hate groups etc. What I find ironic is that these well meaning folks always post these rallies for justice in groups where they know everyone will agree with them. They send these invites to their friends and go to groups who are already promoting their agenda anyway and ask for support. Isn’t that like wagging your finger at the top of a cliff as you watch the bad guys slaughter the innocents in the village below?
If you truly want to create change and make an impact on these and other issues why not take your fight to those who are making it an issue to begin with? Go to the hate groups, the supremacist sites and other bastions of mischief and stupidity. Post your cause there, make your case, tell them why they are wrong and do your best to convince them that they should question their actions. You might not get through to anyone, but even if you make one double think their stance isn’t that a victory in and of itself? It certainly seems far more productive than preaching to the choir and having everyone praise you for your “goodness” when in fact you’ve done nothing at all.
I have traversed the decades whereupon I have seen the pre-internet world of books, newspapers and letters through the mail as the means of receiving and disseminating information. Hours upon hours were spent upon these pursuits. Fast forward to our modern days when the internet gives us 5 second news bites, books are electronic and letters watered down to single line and in some cases merely a few letters. Penmanship has been banished to the annuals of antiquity and world affairs are limited to 5 minute interludes at maximum lest people lose interest.
Thus it begs the question, how deep are we these days? Are we becoming skimmers, merely glossing over this and that moment of interest as we speed at a dizzying rate across the seas of time to a destination unknown? Perhaps we are missing the sensation of being “in the moment” for a suspended period of time. Think of the artists of yore who spent years writing manuscripts or painting landscapes. Not texting the latest unremarkable inspirational quote that will be erased in memory almost as soon as it is read, or photoshopping that next great picture of a fire breathing bunny that will get a million hits on YouTube. Are we regressing into deaf, mute beasts incapable of sustained emotional involvement with the world around us, of expressing our innermost thoughts and uninterested in what others say beyond the 5 minute “golden rule”?
And yet we defend our hurried pace in the name of “progress.” We’re advancing so rapidly if we stop now we’ll be behind, or so it seems. Yet it seems whenever we look for inspiration we look not to those speeding along with us but to the past, always the past.
There are so many options in life that it seems particularly odd to obsess on one option alone – skimming the surface of countless subjects yet mastering none. Why not make a smorgasbord of the whole affair? Skim those items that are worth but a passing glance (those infinite postings of cute puppies on Facebook), tread amongst subjects that will expand your psyche which will in turn give you the ability to engage others beyond 5 minutes of their own free will. Dive deep into those elements of which you find you are passionate. The things that will define your existence and make you a light unto yourself which will cause others to inquire as to its origin.