Seeing History

There was a natural conservatory on the campus of the school I went to when I was on the east coast.  The grounds were closed at night, probably in an effort to avoid vandalism and drunken shenanigans along with the ensuing party-litter.  On a late night walk through campus one fall evening a group of my friends and I, with the kind of excitement that can only be mustered by the young and all too innocent, slipped through a hole in the fence and explored a place we never bothered to see during the day.  The darkness blurred the trees, dirt path, and plants into one shadowy, patternless whole through which we loudly traipsed, thrilled by our furtiveness.

Eventually half of the group split off and returned to the lighted portion of campus, leaving three of us by a brook, which whispered more effectively than we had managed night.  We stared at the stars and philosophized like the young college students we were.  The only remaining male started talking astronomy, perception and history.  In retrospect he was clearly well-informed and knew exactly what he was talking about, but the night was aging rapidly and the cool breeze tousled our hair and clothes playfully and all I knew at the time was that, although what he said was sweet to think about, it did not feel true.

He explained how when we look at the stars we are literally looking into the past because it takes the light so long to traverse across the universe to grace our night sky.  The stars we are looking at are probably dead and gone, he told us.  The other girl, an intelligent young woman who was a linguist major, took everything he said as truth.  She had probably heard it all before.  I am sure I had, too, but I argued back.

I told him that the time and place from whence this light originated was irrelevant, because by that logic we never see anything in the present.  We are always lagging by microseconds (at the very least), regardless of how close the object of our perception is to us.  If everything we perceive is already in the past, and we are, therefore, incapable of experiencing the present, what use is it to look into the night sky, awed by the fact that we are experiencing something old?  I argued that it made much more sense to recognize that this light, although far away from its origins, existed in a new present, our present.  Because the light from the stars was for the first time entering our perception, it was new again.  My argument was very individualistic, experiential and maybe a little human-centric, but it made sense.  I am really proud of my 19 year old self for holding a rational argument against a peer she did not realize was, at the moment, embodying modern science.

This story makes me ache for the days when education was a forum for discussion instead of a lecture hall that frowns on interaction.  Even though I know now that most of the world thinks that looking at a planet or a star glowing in the ebony sky is a literal glimpse into the past (and even I will admit that it is beautiful idea and the science behind it makes sense), the truth is that I raised some solid arguments when the person I was speaking to was a peer instead of an authority figure.  We are conditioned to believe what our authority figures tell us, regardless of what they are teaching, because we know we will be tested on the material later, so challenging something that does not ring true is counterproductive to success.  Unfortunately, this success is short term (grades in school) instead of long term (learning to think creatively and challenging what we learn, to ensure that we are growing as people instead of just accruing other people’s research and opinions and labeling them as our own.)

Maybe one day we’ll find our way away from the regurgitation system of education and find a way to inspire students to think and prepare them for the real world at the same time.

Maybe.

Advertisements

Running With Scissors

Tonight I watched Running With Scissors.

Watching movies seems to be very bad for me. Whenever I sit down (actually usually I lie down and curl into the ever popular fetal position, with my hood up and a blanket on) to watch a movie, I have this tendency to cut myself off from everything else.  There were a few phone calls I was supposed to make and receive tonight, but I turned my phone off, planning to say that it mysteriously died on me.  My sister asked if I wanted to play basketball with her, which I responded to with a mumbled invitation to watch my movie with me.  I had quite a few errands I should have been running.  There were lists I could have been writing, along with letters and stories and journal entries and emails.  In short, there was a lot of stuff that I completely ignored tonight because I wanted to cuddle into the darkness of the downstairs of my house and watch a movie.  Television, radio, books, you name it…nothing else quite encourages my anti-social side to come out and play quite like a good piece of cinema does.

Let’s talk about the movie, shall we?

Running with Scissors truly impressed me.  It is sad and funny and it is horrible because it is true.  The story follows a young boy, Augusten, as he grows up in less than usual circumstances.  His mother is a bit eccentric to begin with,  but declines into what can really only be classified as madness at the hands of her not-very-capable-due-to-his-own-frightening-peculiarities psychiatrist.

Although the story follows Augusten most closely, the story is actually about the psychiatrist; the puppet master, the behind the scenes string puller…the man who is responsible for every ounce of crazy in the movie.  He has three children (all adopted?) to which he adds Augusten halfway through the film.  None of his kids are quite right in their minds, and his wife is just odd enough that she is okay with munching on dog kibble while watching old horror movies.  The story is about influence and how everything a person does impacts (for good and ill) the people around them.  “The Doctor”, as his wife always called him, ruined at least five lives due to his unorthodox approach to the mentally ill (for example, handing out medicine like it was candy), and probably drove others into the ground as well.

The movie  was about unraveling:  It showed  people losing their hold on relationships and self.  It should have been painful to watch, but there was just enough whimsy that I could and probably would watch it again.

It is a story that offers hope.  Whereas other similar stories are only dark, this one offers a glimmer of sunshine.  The author of this book recovered and grew into a functional adult.  He was able to recount his childhood in a humorous way, because he made it through the tough times and became the person he is today because of it.  Running With Scissors asks us to believe that no matter what we go through, no matter what obstacles life erects on our paths, it is possible to overcome them.

The end of the movie made me contemplate that all too prevalent and unanswerable question of mine…what do I want to do with my life?  Where is my passion?  Could I please, please, please just put on a backpack full of clothes and start somewhere new?  I do not think I am quite capable enough to just walk into a sunset, but…

The problem is that in order to pick up and move, a person needs to have a passion or a driving force behind them to guide their journey and I am not sure that I have one.  There are many things I like, but I do not remember the last time I loved something.  I could not even tell you what I have loved, because I do not remember what it felt like to care passionately about a part of life.

I can’t write any more.  My Mum came downstairs to watch television and it’s killing my focus.  Agh.

Mosaic Revelation

When I ride the train to work in the morning, I journal.  This is because it is a waste of time to sit and stare out the window, I can never muster enough focus to read, and my ipod has very poor battery life.  Also writing is good for your brain (so says me, and probably a lot of other people both with and without facts, anecdotes and statistics to back up that assertion.)  Morning journaling also seems to inspire some worthwhile thoughts, and I am going to share with you today’s:

People tend to experience “blue” instead of “ocean.”

Yes, I’m being obnoxious and jumping immediately to the illustrative conclusion.  Allow me to fill in the background:

Story:

I do not work until 8 on Mondays, which means that the train actually fills up on my Monday commutes, and quickly.  Luckily, I am one of the first stops, so I always get a seat (it is hard to write standing up, and there are not many disabled, pregnant old people begging for seats at such an early hour).  Anywho, I was sitting with one leg crossed over the other, being the beautifully feminine thing that I am (yes, some of my hair is less than a centimeter long, leave me alone), and I accidentally kicked a man who entered the train and stood in front of me.  I looked up, briefly mumbled an apology, and immediately looked down at my journal again, as I had been in the middle of a thought.  I also probably turned slightly pink, because a) I have a blushing problem and b) I had just kicked him and c) I was kind of preoccupied with my journal.

Immediately I started to feel guilty about how I had reacted, because my response made me look insecure and insecurity can be easily misread as fear and the dude I had kicked was an African American male and, as a white female my “fear” could easily be misconstrued as racism.  (Insert obligatory reassuring, moderately offensive and nonsensical I-am-not-racist-I-have-black-friends statement here.)

This sudden onset of guilt inspired the following Artsy, Reasoned Conclusion:

“…It’s too easy  to make assumptions without the full picture and it … takes too much energy to put together the whole picture.  …[L]ife is so fragmented: every passing second, minute, hour, day, week, month, year is nothing but one more broken shard of pottery that will be, somehow, someday, pasted down into a large, beautiful [mosaic].  Or perhaps it already has been, but as our experience from moment to moment is so limited … we content ourselves with experiencing “blue” instead of the … amazing …  blue/green/purple/white chaos that is OCEAN. I wish we had the time to look for ocean rather than contenting ourselves with [the one pixel that shouts loudest or crowds nearest.]”

Enhanced Clarity

My little sister is in town right now.  She is visiting from her school in Chicago for the weekend and having her home has been great.  Today we had a conversation about friends of ours who don’t understand certain, important aspects of our personalities and the consequential realization that it might be important to stop being true to one part of ourselves in an effort to let people see who we really are at our cores.

Even trivially considering this seems wrong.  It is important for people to understand who their friends are as individuals, but is it so important that one must deny a part of oneself so that others may understand that person more genuinely?  Much as I hate to say it, I think it might be that important.

My friends have no idea who I am, which hurts.  I consider myself a generally good person.  I am swayed easily when asked to help people, because I hate to watch people suffer, regardless of what kind of suffering they undergo.  My heart breaks easily and often for other people’s tragedies.  I admire those who are steadfast in their beliefs, regardless of what those beliefs may be.  I love art, music, literature, sports, religion…anything people throw themselves into with reckless abandon I cannot help but admire at least a little.  There is little in this world that I cannot find the good in.

Although all of the above is true, I am also a cynic.  I am sarcastic and judgmental and do not respect people who have proved that they do not deserve it.  I will (usually) not be rude to people I do not respect, but if someone is not doing something well, I will not lie to make them feel better.  I will share my honest insights if they are valuable and it is a good time to share them.

People tend to see the second part of my personality more than the first.  As this part of me is not as likable as the first I feel like most of my friends are intimidated by me or treat me insensitively because they assume that is what I am doing.   I love my friends and family intensely and seemingly rarely receive an equatable return.  In order to get my return, it looks like I might have to deny a large part of myself.

Which is more important?  Being true to myself and alienating the metaphorically blind in my life or being sickeningly sweet to everyone so they will not be thrown off by a faux granite exterior and will see my marshmallowy insides?

…both of those sound like terrible ideas.

Start

Here we are.  Another public journal that may or may not garner attention from friends and/or strangers alike.  Let’s begin:

Life has a funny way of pulling me along by the hair and bringing me to places I never expected (and sometimes wanted) to go.  Today is the first day of my digging in my heels and chronicling that, as well as reminiscing regarding the downfall that brought me here.

I will copy train journals and write new entries here.  It might be good.  It could be horrible.  It will be Holly, through and through.  The hope is that through these meandering entries inherently Holly postings will lead us to that Holly character we’ve convinced us we lost so long ago.  If we keep at this project with a sense of determination and focus, I think we’ll find her.

She couldn’t have possibly gotten that lost.