Monday, January 25, 2010

Stranger than Fiction

A friend and I, distorted and reflected in the Anish Kapoor sculpture at the Sackler

"Just be yourself!"

Have you ever received that advice? I have, many times, mostly in the form of friendly encouragement before I had to go into any social situation. I am an Extreme Introvert which accounts for why I've needed, throughout my whole life so far, this kind of Extreme Encouragement.

I think what the people meant, the ones who told me to just be myself, was to relax and have fun at parties and in other kinds of gatherings. To "be myself" in a group - at least so far in this lifetime - is to glue myself to a wall, sweat, blink and in general freeze up or shut down. I'm sure that's not what my friends and family were suggesting! What they really meant, I believe, was, "Just DON'T be yourself!" They meant it in the most loving way.

Lately I and a bunch of other bloggers have been writing about identity. The question of who we are, fictional or "real," now or in the past, is in the air at the moment. It's a pretty fascinating wavelength. Are you thinking about it?

Rosaria is writing a blog of memoirs in addition to her great blog Sixty Five, What Now? Her most recent post, a reflection on the process of writing a memoir is perfectly named: Is it real or is it created? She makes so many good points in the post. Wow. It's true that all history is a creation of the historians who imagine it. So all memoirs are also creations rather than cold, hard fact.

Who knows who I was in the past? But - even in this present moment, who am I? Dan of the blog A Mindful Heart says, My very wise friend Walter would say that what you think is your "real" self is actually a fictional character. Oh yeah. My identity (yours, too!) is a moving, shape-shifting mass of ephemera. It's no wonder the "I" part of me gets so restless and moody sometimes.

Dancing in shamanic alignment with "reality" involves being willing to change moment to moment. C.M. Jackson of the blog States of Mine, wrote this morning about the need to embrace change. I'm beginning to get it - resistance to change is futile, unnatural. The Sufi acupuncturist tells me that, in Chinese medicine, change is so intrinsic that if things don't move, disease will result. I think, too, of a great physiology teacher who used to say, "It's OK to slouch - just don't slouch ALL THE TIME."

Below is an aphorism C.M. Jackson posted today, the perfect words to sum up what several of us have been thinking about. Thanks, C.M! Thanks, Ms. Buck!

If you have been sitting, stand.
If you have been standing, sit.
If you have been traveling, stay home.
If you have been home, travel.
If you have been teaching, learn.
If you have been learning, teach.
If you have been talking, listen.
If you have been listening, talk.

Annharriet Buck

This is my friend's pic of that same moment. Similar, but definitely different.


Mary Ellen said...

I've been thinking in the same cluster of ideas - most recently about the Buddhist understanding of essential "no-self". That raises a question about memory, memoir, and relationships - who is it we love? What is it we are being faithful to? I agree that we are unchanging change - but I can't let go of the sense (hope?) that there's somebody there, dancing that dance.

willow said...

I really like the wisdom of Annharriet Buck, as well as that great handbag and scarf! :^)

tut-tut said...

How coincidental. Several old hs and college friends have been "finding" me, bringing up memories, either in their greetings or in the appearance of themselves to me.

Mary Ellen, above, has some deep pools of thought to dive into . . .

Dan Gurney said...

Any story of the past is actually fiction. I've got a University of California degree with honors in History. I've come to appreciate just how Euro-centric and Western "Civilization" centric, my education was. From the point of view of indigenous peoples, I didn't receive an education, but rather a brainwashing.

ellen abbott said...

Our memories are not perfect, we don't always remember things the way they actually happened. We not only create our present and future, we also create our past.

It's hard to know who we really are since we are constantly evolving and most especially because it forces us to recognize our faults. Not too many people like doing that.

Chris Wolf said...

Are your pictures from the same moment in time if the people around you are not in the same place?
You are looking into the camera in one photo, and away from it, later or earlier? Did you say, 1, 2, 3, go?
I love how I try so hard to see the whole picture, when in fact I cannot. Looking up right now, I see a chair from the front, but there is also infinite other perspectives-from the top, the back and the bottom, that I do not see. I don't have a clear picture of the chair as a whole. If someone looked at the chair from the bottom and saw that there was a rip there, they might say, "What an old chair or a worn chair," but I don't see that. The person who chooses to sit in the chair may say, "this chair is so comfortable", and my perspective is "I wish someone would come sit and visit me-this chair is so empty."
My friend says that the only one who can see the whole chair is the one living in the middle of it.
And so our perspective of who I am, to me, is different than anyone else's. May I always want to see from my neighbors eyes.

Lynne said...

Loved this, Reya! Loved the two same yet different photos too!

and what Willow said! :)

Reya Mellicker said...

Mary Ellen, GREAT questions! Who are we being faithful to? Wow.

Thanks Willow.

And yes Chris, there's that story about the blind people describing an elephant, each of them touching a different part of the elephant. Now that's "the" truth, isn't it?

I might have taken my pic 2 or 3 seconds before or after Pat took his pic. We didn't say 123 go, we were just snapping randomly. The other people in the room were moving around, enjoying their own distorted reflections.

Phil said...

To me there seems to be two "selfs" with many folks-

For introverts, and maybe some extrovert, I think there is the "public" self and the "intimate" self. I think the public self is the one that is not real. That's the one that either freezes up in an unfamiliar social gathering, or, "acts" as if they're comfortable.

The intimate self is the one your close friends and family knows. That's who they're talking about when they say "be yourself". But some people only reveal that self to a select few.

But what do I know?

glnroz said...

its ok to change, but try to stay the same..thnx

Tom said...

i'm hoping for a distorted Reya pic...maybe we'll see a little piece of your fictional self showing around the edges.

steven said...

reya i laughed when i saw the header and clicked it up into this so very cool discussion.
i love that we are each a world.
i love that when we see other we each see a world that's unique to that connection.
and i especially love that in each other person, their world sees my world.
my memories are so different to the memories of the other people who were "right there." how could this be? well it be! just like your two photos.
a peaceful dc evening reya! steven

Barry said...

I recently met a friend I hadn't seen in 20 or more years. Initially I was shocked because they had aged 20 years and looked little like my memory of them.

However after visiting with them over lunch for a couple of hours and then returning home, I discovered my memory of them had been updated to their current appearance and it was hard to recall what they had looked like 20 years ago.

Truth is a very slippery thing.

Ronda Laveen said...

Just did a workshop on this Sat. Too esoteric to realte via mobile device. Great discussion.

Reya Mellicker said...

Ronda I hope you write more about it, please?

Phil, as you know, I believe you know everything.

Expat From Hell said...

I had a friend basically "dump" me last year because he started reading my blog. He said I was "creating a false persona". False from what? Thanks for making me think again, Reya. EFH

Reya Mellicker said...

Expat - who needs a friend like that? A "friend" - should have said.

LadrĂ³n de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

It's always fun to compare photos taken by different people/cameras at the same point in time. I really dismisses the notion that a photo is "capturing the moment" since we all see it through different eyes and lenses.

C.M. Jackson said...

Reya- thanks for being you and sharing your vision of the world and your journey-c