Working Together

"We shape our self
to fit this world

and by the world
are shaped again..."

Excerpt from "Working Together" © David Whyte
in The House of Belonging

Many Rivers Press

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Images in the Land of The Other People

My creative process is this:
  1. I'm inspired.
  2. I choose.
  3. I follow through.
  4. Something unexpected happens.
  5. I'm confused.
  6. I get a "funny feeling".
Now all my l life I thought that disorientation and consequent "funny feeling" I felt stepping out of my comfort zone was some personality flaw of mine; some low self esteem issue.  I can remember this feeling vividly as a small child and as an adult I chalked it up to insecurity.  "Push through", I'd counsel myself.  "Other people do what they want? Do they not? Don't fall prey to restrictions on your personal freedom!! Express yourself! Put your big girl panties on; get your courage up..." etc. Other People.  I never really spent anytime considering who these "Other People" might be, what their situation is or how what I do relates to them.

So it unfolded when I posted a picture on Facebook  but a few minutes before I declared my word of the year to be courage.  The picture was one I had in a photo file of Solstice images. I was fond of it and I remembered it there. I used it and gave what I thought was credit to the photographer and tagged the people in the picture.  I then went merrily on my way not thinking much about it. 

A few days later I was cruising through my timeline when I noticed the picture was gone.  I thought it was a fluke of Facebook but after looking again a few days later I got that "funny feeling" that I did something wrong.  Did someone report it to be mean and have it deleted? Was there a hidden copyright on the photo that I overlooked? Did I - God forbid - offend the people involved by overstepping their rights? Of course, I feel mortified that I would hurt anyone by posting the picture but herein lies the rub. The list of what might have happened to that picture is endless because I, admittedly, do not know all the possible scenarios. I haven't read the rule book. Fixing it by going through each of my ideas of what might have happened to apologize seemed more like poking a stick into a beehive than screwing up my courage to do the responsible thing. I didn't know what to do. What would The Other People do?  Create a bru-ha-ha probably, involving more other people who didn't know or did know who didn't care and others yet who have nothing but their own ideas about the issue is usually what they would do. It did not seem like the right approach. 

It is sometimes difficult to figure out the source of the "funny feeling" resulting from the disorientation of new experiences.  This coming February marks my tenth year living in the town I am in.  I found a job and I moved here after falling in love with the place in 2001. It is not easy moving somewhere new where there is no familiarity when you are single and over fifty.  That is what I told myself when I could not seem to connect with people here. I was completely displaced. To amuse myself, I began to take movies with my camera of people performing music and I enjoyed it. I would edit them and learned to do a little titling on them. I also like to take candid pictures of people being their beautiful selves in public places. Evidently my definition of beautiful and the subjects of my camera lens saw it a bit differently. And here is the pathetic part: this awareness careened past me. No one said anything. Perhaps they thought I was smarter than I am or just a creep not worthy of mention. Over the years I began noticing that I was getting the stink eye from people - sometimes even in my films.  I passed it off, unfortunately, and continued on until the shunning became so extraordinary that I finally got the message I was not the slightest bit welcome. Clearly I had some sort of reputation that was not favorable. I stopped taking pictures and filming people performing. I refrained from going out except with people that I knew. My move has not gone well in terms of cultivating a social life.

I was at a stalemate after this last incident and really frustrated with myself.  I seem to go through my life like some kind of high functioning autistic with no understanding of boundaries...AND, I suspect, that I just did it yet AGAIN. And so it was that my neighbor stopped by and tossed a movie on the table that he had found at the library saying, "you might like this".  It was the understatement of the year.

It is frightening to realize how close I came to NOT watching this movie because I didn't know what it was about.  I thought it looked like a doc about advertising or something.  I shrugged and threw it in the DVD player to amuse me while my laptop powered up.  The name of the film is We Live in Public. I was mesmerized and I watched the entirety of it with a mortified fixation.  It goes without saying that I know the excitement involved in being part of an internet experiment involving community.  So seeing this perspective of what transparency for human beings can lead to in reality was heart stopping and released a flood of unpleasant memories and a shocking vision of myself as one of The Other People.

I could have used seeing this film three years ago when it came out. I felt like a fish just discovering water when it ended. The troubled and multifarious Mr. Harris through Ondi Timoner's film laid it all out there clearly enough for me to understand. This socializing and sharing on line is not what we are thinking it is; it is not what we are telling ourselves it is.  My videos and pictures of people were not what I thought they were....and it doesn't matter the joy it brought me or what my thought or intention is or was; it is still not that because with the internet there is only a collective existence....there are no individuals.  There are only The Other People of which we are a part of once you power up and step inside the screen and you don't get to choose who those other people are. The medium supplies an aspect of living unconditionally that we simultaneously yearn for and despise. My feeling currently is that it is designed for our undoing and revelation. 

I am still sitting with all of this in somewhat of a shock. Technology and the internet are a huge part of my daily life yet now I can't look at it them same way. I'm not at all clear about their role in my life now. 
I mourn my loss of being able to dive in and mash up whatever I want whenever I want for my own happiness. Dammit!  I loved that! All I know today is that I need to step into the realm of The Other People and share in my own words what I found and how I sincerely hope that I can keep from offending real individuals in the future. I cannot fix the damage I've done outside of closing all my accounts and that feels a bit extreme but there you have it. I will do my best to think twice and consider decorum before I post things into the giant pool of everybody. As a beginning there is no picture with this post as I simply could not figure out how to get permission to use anything I found that I wanted to use!  No visual; a first in this blog.

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