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Monthly Archives: December 2005

Every so often in life, you come to a realisation that broadens your perspectives, which peel away minutely the infinite layers of complexity that surround living. They pierce the veil of social obliqueness that governs our collective behaviour. Things that were confusing before, benefit from an infusion of clarity. This collective process I suppose is some aspect of maturity, but is distinctly unrelated to age. It comes from worldly exposure, to the realities and fictions that perpetuate every day life. These realisations are so critical that they are worth recording, lest that tomorrow in our fallibility, we forget these lessons, which would serve us so well in understanding our fellow travellers.

As you will have no doubt astutely noticed, I have felt that I have had one of these in relation to conversations. It has been an oft quoted saying that in conversations, two things are critical: that which is said; and that which is not said. It is easy comparatively to identify the first one, and as to the second one, no one but I fear time and experience, and perhaps your own hopes and fears will be able to explain what is being conveyed there. I certainly have had only limited success. It is to the first strand of information that I want to bring my focus on, because it is the only one I feel that I can have any success at interpreting by myself.

There is always in any conversation the clear first layer of information, what the person is saying, the physical words that come from their mouth, with all their symbols and allusions paired with the inevitable shades, for words are not numbers, of meaning and implication. They are the ostensible subject matter of the conversation, and convey the normal information that is to be imparted during the course of the conversation. I think now of this as the directed layer, that bit of information that they want you to ostensibly extract from the conversation, this is what they hold themselves out to mean. But the trite saying that people rarely say what they mean, or mean what they say, perhaps tells you how much stock you should put in this layer. By all means be aware of what is being said here, sometimes the particular wording of a commitment or a response can be of crucial importance, but do not presume the veracity of any information that one finds embedded only in this layer. Talk is cheap.

The second strand, and perhaps not very far from the first are the accompanying actions, the emotions, gestures and other presentational flourishes that go along with mere words. They are clearly designed to convey information in themselves, and I would argue are a better and more expressive guide than words. It naturally takes a lot more skill to be aware and interpret them, but most of us have some inbuilt ability to interpret a wide variety of facial expressions, intonations and gestures, no doubt because we use a wide variety of them ourselves, and have an idea of what they ought to look like. I think most of us though, simply do not pay attention to this layer, we do not know enough about the language it speaks in, and we rarely if ever give it the attention that it is due in understanding and interpreting an action. Even if we are aware of it, we don’t have the understanding to put it into context, to realise what information we are extracting from it is not present in the direct layer. Often we are only paying attention to this layer sub-consciously. It has been my intent to watch carefully now these actions, whether the crossed arms, or the fidgety fingers, and derive from them what insight that I may.

The final strand, the one that inspired this piece, and is the major realisation, is that there is an intellectual component to the person-reading process of the second stage. It embodies the constant question: Why is this person giving me this information? What information are they looking to convey? What reaction from me are they trying to seek? What information or response do they really want? It is to hone this checklist into an internal process, one that is actively and carefully invoked and considered at all critical times.

The nature of this layer is unfortunately slightly speculative, and I cannot guarantee that I have been correct when I apply this method, but it has certainly in a few conversations that I have had recently proved to be of interest and insight, as well as explaining various off conversations that I can remember from my past. I found friends conveying to me odd bits of information, that I could not understand why they would give to me; what purpose could there be to information like this? But a process of working through these questions has made me much more aware of the true nature might be of what was being conveyed, that certain sub-conscious questions or reactions were being sought, and that my responses answered these questions perhaps, though at the time I was not even aware that they were being asked. I caution again, that I may be reading too much into something innocent or neutral, but it appears to be that given the circumstances of life one has to extract information from where it can be found. Not all questions and answers can be given directly, and people will flinch from a direct response to a question that they might answer impliedly. Moreover some questions cannot be asked in anyway but indirectly, and one has even then to be careful in phrasing.

I feel this is important because I am finally coming to grips with the multifaceted nature of information, that there is a lot more information than I have ever come to grips with, or had the good fortune to learn how to construe. Much of it is concealed in social etiquette and by social niceties, but the signs and the information are there for the extraction if one is careful and willing to bear its asking price, which is merely that one is aware of the here and now, that one focuses on the world as one lives in it, to hear the realities of the now, to feel them, and to think t rather then bask in the casualness. That is after all the prime directive of my world. Think!

How do you deal with the realisation that fundamentally, you are a boring person? It is a difficult idea to come to terms with when have to consider it all in real terms, what it amounts to and what it really means both in the short and long term for your own internal perspective. It is perhaps the most enduring remark that a person I once termed a friend made on me, was to term me boring. I guess despite the strenuous denial that I engaged in at the time, this is my testament of surrender. It is an admission that they were correct.

What I a’m not so sure about is whether that really amounts to startling admission on anyone’s part let alone mine, and whether in the long run that really matters. I say that because in my mediocre and limited opinion that in fact most people are boring people, and that interesting people are exceptionally few and far between, people who can transcend most of our narcissistic fascination with ourselves, due to the fascination they present as their lives being. I would suggest that most of the rest of the people are in fact quite boring.

On the other hand I think it might equally be argued that it would be possible that some people control or subsume the drama much better then most people do, that some are able to hide the drama that their lives inevitably have with better concealment, or that they exude more of either an aura of imperviousness or are more able to keep control of their world. I don’t think I am like this, the crazy in my world is quite non-existent, except when I run in to the net creators of it in those of the super-dramatic lives.

There are only few exceptional souls that would really hold our attention, who either bring enough drama into their life or invent enough artificial drama to keep up with their own exciting life. The fundamental nature of people I believe is that 99.5% of us are in fact rather humdrum and boring, that we can doll up our lives on demand, but inside ourselves we don’t really think that they are that truly fascinating. We think that they are instead pretty normal, pretty average, pretty much on the straight and narrow. Or maybe I am just making excuses for my own perpetual boredom with myself and my life, who knows.

I don’t really, do you?

I’ve noticed a strong trend in when I post and what I tend to post about, and I don’t think the correlation that I have observed really surprises me now that I’ve found the chance to think about it. I always see my posts as a way of formulating opinion, a way to work out what my own position is on something, to lay out in clear and precise nature what the arguments that are so loosely defined and so vaguely formulated when the monologue is internal develop a crystalline clarity when exposed to scrutiny by the commitment of pen to paper. This is a post about posting, but don’t let that trouble you.

What strikes me about this is that it seems to strongly depend and cohere to my feelings about life at that particular time. It seems that writing has become my answer to my own problems, a way of identifying as well as solving the problem. It’s an interesting methodology I guess, but I think people need a way to get through things, and it helps that I’ve found mine I guess. The odd thing I find is that, as much as I enjoy the writing process, I don’t have anything to write about when I’m feeling okay with the world. When things are good, when life is content, when there really is nothing to complain about in the magnificence of creation, I’m so tongue tied that I have nothing to say.

This post then really is in homage to the goodness of life that is given to me at this time. There is a serenity about it that I enjoy, a surety and a clarity of both routine and purpose that I have never enjoyed before in my life. This odd feeling, that for a little while the ship of my soul has both captain and navigator, both confident that the strong wind behind them is pushing continuously in the right direction.

I’m enjoying it while it lasts, it is as I’ve emphasised a reassuring and comforting feeling for a little while at least. What I find amusing though is that I have the cynical perspective internalised off course, but that simultaneously I’m unworried about its implications, sure that I can keep going on as long as the wind holds true. But in the interests of being careful and declaring my metaphor totally overextended, I’m very keenly aware that the wind is that of fortune, and it is a capricious and vicious wind, which often and violently changes, leaving many a ship in the lurch and a long way from shore. Life goes on though, and it looks like the right perspective on it makes life much more viable then it should ever be.

I think over the last few months, as I’ve become more aware of what I want to be and where I want to go, I have also developed another change, the import of which I am still trying to come to terms with, and especially to decide whether it amounts to a regression or a step forward.

I had what might be called a declining sense of humour. For a long time, from about 15 onwards, I had what I considered pretty high wit and sophisticatary in my sense of humour. I enjoyed the sharp pun, the sophisticated play on words. It was perhaps a manifestation of a desire to be more mature then I was, but it also is just the way my sense of humour developed. I never developed a taste for British black humour though; it was always more attuned to the finer word play then black depression coupled with either embarrassment or derision.

For the last few months I’ve found that I enjoy and am becoming to really appreciate the normal humour that is prevalent in every day life. In a way it marks a regression to the norm in that I like to watch and enjoy many of the shows that are now on mainstream TV, stuff like Friends and the much more superior Scrubs, make life much more enjoyable. I enjoy movies that I would find patent nonsense a little while ago. The Fantastic Four was good enough to enjoy and there were bits that were laugh out loud. Bruce Almighty and Jim Carey generally, which was slapstick humour that got a chuckle but a lot of rolled eyes has been rehabilitated as a good pick me up movie, fun stuff to get into a fun mood. It’s a big change.

Simultaneously I am actually finding much more humour in life. The absurd, the irrational, the silly and the stupid walk by us everyday in the street, a view from your window will show more comedy to the discerning eye then the most exquisitely planned comedy scene. There is an implicit joy in life that I feel I am tapping into for the first time, it brings a little bit of a smile to my life. There is a surrealism about life, that somehow what people think about life, all their worries and concerns, so weighed down on their way to their every day burdens is actually humorous. People don’t see the humour that I think you need to ferret out of life. For me both these things have become something that I find amusing. I found the second one all my life, but for the first time the actual rather then the intellectual world is a source of entertainment for me.

I’d like to think it’s a step in the right direction, an internalization of the quote that there is no reason to take life seriously, given that you’re never going to get out of it alive, that there is a certain logic in just enjoying the ride, understanding that it is a ride rather then anything more weighty then that. We are here for a little while, a few instances of the blinks of the cosmic eye. We might as well smile while we are here.