The Canadian Imagination

What it means to be Canadian; examining and reworking Canada as a nation.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Mirror, reflected

It seems to be a period of my life when I keep being asked to structure myself within other people's structures: am I logical or emotional, intuitive or judgemental? Are my politics liberal or conservative? Am I "political" at all (in any meaningful sense), or utterly a-political? Do I interact with others on a personal or professional basis? Do I have emotion or vulnerability, or am I utterly devoid thereof? Is my perspective objective or subjective? Am I a friend, or ... well, you define the "or's" here: thus far I have encountered parts of the spectrum as diverse as one person who still doubts my friendship (since it does not seem to have ameliorated my instinct to see everyone with a ruthless eye); and one person who demanded/clung to my friendship after a single meeting in passing.

(There is an assumption, in friendship, of an unquestioning loyalty and support. I do not have that. It takes more than a single meeting with me to realise that this absence is not a mask; and many, many more before most people realise that it is precisely through such absence -- among other things -- that my friendship manifests.)

Am I this, or am I that? and why am I not other?

The underlying assumptions of all such attempts to categorise me is that individual compartments within a created structure are unique, objective, self-defining, and exclusive.

Increasingly, in an attempt to gain meaningful answers, the questions are asked directly: but for all I try in all good faith to answer them just as directly, I rather doubt I can give anything meaningful within the context demanded; and invariably the questions themselves end up telling me far more about the person asking them than (I suspect) any extensive good-faith answer on my part can tell them. Consider the attempted professional/personal divide: for many, many years now I don't go home and leave my work behind; and I don't get up in the morning and leave my home behind. Separate out tenebris-who-thinks from tenebris-who-parties or tenebris-who-socialises or tenebris-who-writes or even tenebris-who-sleeps? Are my dealings to be considered professional or personal? Can you neatly compartmentalise my being into work/not work? I cannot.

Am I to be considered absolutely objective, or absolutely subjective? when I no longer find any separation between the two? I work from a perspective where everything is simultaneously absolutely personal and absolutely not. If it were not absolutely impersonal, how could I have broken down laughing a year ago, when I was flipped on a mat and something went perma-snap in my knee? Blinding pain: yet I was laughing, the whole thing was just so ridiculous. A wider perspective than me myself I, maybe? Yet at the same time if any given situation were not absolutely personal, it would not matter to me -- disconnect, waning of interest -- and I would not be writing here. It really is as simple as that.

To polarise myself into either this or that: well, it is a structure that holds no meaning for me, and thus any attempt to try to answer within that structure must come across to the other as trying to build a solid, stable wall with water. Try to limit me into specific words, specific questions. Where would you start? How far would you get before you think you would know everything there is to know, here?

I am human. Sometimes that seems to slip by the wayside because humans are "supposed" to get upset, or hate, or love insanely and jealously, or want revenge: whatever happens to fit into your image of what a human being should be. And even then I still don't become upset -- not because I am inhuman, but because all of life's foibles, misunderstandings, glitches, delights; all of this is human: absolutely, amazingly, irritatingly, delightfully human.

I do realise, however, that when I write (or speak for that matter), my communications frequently seem to come across as very matter-of-fact, no real perception of emotion or vulnerability or intimacy ... and yet many manage to see visible emotion within that text nevertheless. Perceived lack of vulnerability is a trickier concept though: yet when I ask for definitions and exact examples, most often what actually seems to be the case is that I don't come across as defensive. There is a certain freedom with accepting that some situations exist, and that other people are outside your control. There is a parallel freedom in, when others point out to me that I come across as emotionless, or less than intimate, or matter-of-fact: that I can accept it and say "yes, I know I come across that way." Explain it if the other person wants and needs an explanation, sure, but only then: this is not my need.

I am who I am. I am direct, I am open, apparently I am much more communicative than I thought I was, I look at life head-on, darkness and light: and it doesn't scare me. I explain myself when others need it, so as not to unnerve them. And so, sometimes, it seems to come across as no real emotion -- and I am thinking that is at least partly because we are no longer capable of recognising anymore what is right in front of our eyes ... or maybe we are afraid to.

Ask me what you wish, and I will do my best to answer you honestly and directly. But remember, always, that I am a mirror. When you ask me about a perceived lack of vulnerability: are you absolutely certain you are not asking because you have a need to see vulnerability in me?

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