Nothing would mean anything if I didn’t have a life of use to others, says Angelina Jolie.
Oliver Sacks said we are our internal self-narrative, the narrative we describe our experiences, the experiences of our acting and the experiences of our feelings. Without an internal self-narrative we have no identity, we don't know who we are.
We become ourselves through others who we interact with, who we share experiences, feelings and emotions. It means the self is always touched by the otherness, it's about finding or identifying the self in the other-self, according to Susan Sontag, who we recognize their features, mood, feelings, culture, believes and acting in ourselves. We can literally say that plurality is the law of the earth, without the other we are left with our thoughts and living solely in reflection creates insatiable desires, the endless pursuit to fill the emptiness (a biological unbalance) and feed a starved self-image, says Hannah Arendt. An urge to act because only through acting we can feel real and fulfilled. Experiences nurture our senses and through it is born the Self, says Fréderic Lordon who describes it as the economics of joy.
Empathy is the ability to put ourselves in others shoes so we become kind and honest to others as if we were doing it for ourselves, because we are feeling how it is to be in the other's position. This causes the brain to produce serotonin, that makes us have a well-being feeling. The same when someone is kind and honest to us, we have the empathy to put ourselves in their shoes and we understand they putting themselves in our shoes, allowing them to feel good in such expression towards us. For our brain it means we are socially understood and accepted. It is the cause of a socio-biological harmony because from others acceptance and understanding comes self-reassurance and self-acceptance. But we can also call it as love that you can have towards friends, neighbors and even strangers. But if people feel alienated from each other in society it causes an opposite feeling and reaction called cynicism.
Empathy, social confidence and play are strong related, Play is embedded not only in humans but in all kind of animals; Fish, lizards, spiders, birds, they all play. It was found that play is part of evolution and as important as sleeping and eating according to scientist Stuart Brown. Animals that grow up playing have more social confidence and social intelligence, more empathy even towards other species, becoming less aggressive by showing less sign of violence and more relaxed. Some animals, such as rats, become depressed if hindered of playing. On the other hand, when growing up without playing animals and humans develop social anxiety.
Play is universal, part of every human being’s creativity and the source of a meaningful life. The capacity to add something of one’s own to the common world is the most elementary form of human creativity. If such capacity is destroyed, which can happens for many reasons such as economic isolation, social isolation or cultural isolation, isolation becomes all together unbearable, according to Arendt again.
Happiness is found on joy. We have joy on things that make us feel a biological and social harmony. The biggest joy one can have is to appreciate oneself as the cause of joy to others, which gives the person a grate power of acting and interaction (socially acceptance or the sense of belonging). Unfortunately, in our society, there is a big competition for that power through glamour, popularity, money, fame, status, etc; Things that causes the monopolization of joy, of the acting power, of social integration and harmony. Consequently, from such monopolization comes hate, blames, humiliation, envy, jealousy and further distress people causes to others, including exploitation of others or submission to others since being social is a biological necessity. Aloofness is the bureaucratic self images, or illusion, of a social power of belonging, as well as the power of being a gate-keeping of the social belonging.
Acting and playing means appearing. To appear involves confidence and risk, both that comes from trust. Trust we find where we identify ourselves with otherwise the other feels alien to us. When the otherness appears as alien to us we feel judged, excluded, hatred, cynic and not being able to act because of anxiety caused to such feelings, consequently not being able to become; Not being able to build an "I", said Alan Watts. The monopolization of joy through money, aloofness and even culture alienate people, the cause of feeling excluded from the socio-biological harmony.
The conclusion is that have fun is a serious matte. Through acting and playing we develop imagination which is important for us to gain a wider perspective of our reality, from our senses nurture , which means less alienated or less averse to different things and people.
So love people for let you express your empathy and let them express their empathy. Feel the serotonin effect together. Don't take life and people too serious but play and then let them go, move on. Be grateful for the moment experience you got and the nice memories they helped you stamp in your self-narrative. Be grateful to have an other person who accept you for such exchange for your socio-biological harmony, because it demands trust above all. If you have nobody to play with, make art.
At the end we are all the same only in different circumstances. Thank you for your trust on my act, that gives me a self-narrative about who I am and where I belong to, which without I would not be able to find my Self and there would be no “I”.
As a newborn we don't know that existed a world before us, we don't know that the things and people we see, hear and interact were there before us, we don't even know the concept of "before". When a newborn cries as a reaction of the uncomfortable or painful feeling of hunger their mother offers the milk from her breast, while for the newborn it is as if they have created the milk out of his cries, it is as if they have create the breast, as if it is appearing from nowhere; for the newborn even their mother is his own creation, as everything that there is out there and come in contact with them. Donald Winnicott explains it's natural for newborns to feel like everything comes from them. It's not a thinking, not a conceptualization in their heads (since they have none) but only a sensation.
If we feel people and things comes from us then it is as if they are us, it is specially true in relation with newborns and mothers who they experience the more frequency and intense touch, glance and care; who the newborn recognize the voice, the movements and the heartbeat when in their her womb.
The process of growing up is a phase of frustration because it is when we face the harsh reality that we can't have things as would please us and whenever we want all the time. It is when we start to realize that our mothers are an independent person with her own individuality, that things don't disappear when we don't see, feel and hear them anymore but they just go somewhere else, in an other place and reality that exist independent from us and was there before us came to the world.
Winnicott explains it is important for the child to express their frustration; The frustration expression happens in many ways, from associating people and things with good or bad personalities they learn from stories, by expressing and illustrating such associations in drawings, through playing which Winnicott described as a serious thing for the child, because it is through playing children try to make sense of the world and express their feelings; by expressing the act of love or hate and even destruction when the frustration feels unbearable, such as kicking doors and throwing things on the floor in anger. When toddlers are repressed, forbidden or punished, for being aggressive or destructive, they express their frustration in dreams, often as a nightmare.
All expression, of any kind, is an act of creation and destruction of our wishes and frustration even for grown ups. The act of building things, shape things, drowning and interacting are acts of creation that often help us to deal and overcome things in life that we can not have as we wished. In building and shaping things, or painting and drawing, in an aggressive manner or in an odd, freak, antic form can be an expression of destruction. At the end, what differ adults from toddlers other then becoming civilized, which means learning to repress and express our feelings of love (creation) and frustration (destruction) in a civilized way?
Depending on how we were allowed to overcome our unbearable frustrations is how we learn to deal with it in adult life. Not being able to overcome our natural frustration while growing up creates damaged adults who becomes little dictators, manipulative, aggressive, expressing their emotional pain with mean comments about people, through aggressive identitarian expression (such as football team support, nationalism or so) or through political and ideological position as representation of good and evil to be fought and imposed as they wish. The wanting of creating the world the way they want and the frustration of not being able to, which turns people nihilist.
Art helps us to deal with our feelings, it helps us to become civilized, it is the playing and the symbolic association we do to things, just like toddlers do which deep inside it is always serious for helping us to make sense of this world. Every act and interaction is an expression; From the little help we offer to a stranger, in mean comments some people do about others' appearances, in art, especially in confusing art, all is a form of expression.
Maybe because of its expressiveness representation people normally expect art to have a message, so they try to interpret what pieces of art say or what they are about, turning art into a utilitarian object that needs to have an explanation in order to be accepted and recognize as art. But as Susan Sontag says in "Against Interpretation", art is not about something, art is not supposed to have an utilitarian use for the public who appreciate and collect it, art is not about something. Art is a thing of its own, its only use is to experience it, sense it, as we are supposed to sense the world around us, shapes, sounds, colours, texture, composition pasterns and so. The same was a child kinking the door because of frustration is not a message but a sole expression of frustration, a something to be experienced in order to overcome the frustration, a hope that out of the destruction a greater figure will establish order. Reason why adults should not ask toddlers why they are misbehaving, they don't know and according to psychoanalysts such question only creates more confusion and frustration in their heads, which causes them to overthinking, leading them to mental stress and depression.
We can create and recreate meanings according to our own individual or collective understanding and experiences. Meanings are important, they are the associative representation we use to make sense of the world, consequently we use such meanings in our conceptual expression. But meaning and truth are not the same thing, so art is not about the message it carries (the meaning we give to it) but about the experiencing of its expressiveness, as creation and destruction, as overcoming our deep painful and unbearable feeling that causes us to overthink, so we can quite our mind and experience the fulfilling calm stillness behind everything, after the fulfilling act.
We photographers, or any creative and art lovers, have a lot in common with those in love with business and money. Despite the criticism and sometimes conflicting attitude among our differences, resulting the feeling of being against each other, we are looking for the same through different means.
Either if we care about it or not we can't deny that society is highly driven by money, status, aesthetics and so. Values, that are things related to the power of influence. The influence to create and the influence of attracting people persuaded to collaborate with us for our creation. Collaboration that others offer as exchange of some of the access to such values,d which once acquired enough gives them the power to create and influence.
We know about people who have the believe that human interaction has only one meaning, and that would be money (which all other values are related to). In this particular perspective, money is what defines you. Your abilities, your brightness, your position in society, your level of access to goods and services and your level of creative power. There is a truth in it, not for natural reasons but for cultural reasons. The only way to survive with an healthy and integrated life balance in today society is through acquiring money (which ironically, the stress and worries related to money often scorn our health and life balance). The amount of money needed will depend on the values and views of those around you I suppose.
What I disagree in this view is about money being the means of every human relation. It's the meaning for social integration at certain level but not the meaning of human interaction. Humans, as any alive organism, strive for survival and according to Antonio Damasio such survival is measured by the organism balance. We have the perception of balance through emotion (visible or invisible somatic action and movements in reaction to something that provoked them), meaning that we perceive what causes us joy or irritability (and anything in between) and react according to it. In short, we build emotional defenses against what causes us distress and emotional attachment to what cause us joy in order to maintain a balance for life preservation and perpetuation. Simple living organisms such as insects, mono-cellular and even bacteria don't have consciousness of their emotions (which is not the same as feelings). Only animals who have feelings (mental images) can feel what they emote, which require a more developed nervous system. As Antonio Damasio simplify in a short quote, "emotions play in the theater of the body. Feelings play in the theater of the mind".
We can then conclude that the meaning of human interaction is Joy. Even if the job we work with is not joyful, we do it for the payment, normally through monetary earning. Money which bring us a joyful feeling, not because of the money itself but because of the joyful things (and people) we can obtain through it. And the most joyful thing one can have is to contemplate oneself as the cause of joy of others according to Lordon.
"Since this [joy] is renewed as man considers his virtues, or his power of acting, everyone is anxious to tell his own deeds, and show off his powers, both of body and mind." - Frédéric Lordon, Willing Slaves of Capital: Spinoza and Marx on Desire.
During my early adulthood I was often taking the buses in front of the building I used to live. As normally, at least for me, I had always been ignored. Not disrespected but ignored. At least until I started attending a flight attendant course that imposed on me the demand of a very formal looking and behavior. When I left home for the first time wearing suit and tie, in a such elegant and status symbol outfit, was when I noticed I had people attention, servitude and privileged treatment. Bus drivers welcoming with "good morning sir", shop attendants looking forwards to serve me first and women who usually would avoid contact and interaction with me were now smiley and approachable. I was the same poor guy as before only that I was in a fancy clothes going to, and returning from, a fancy neighborhood. The talk about the social prejudice in Brazilian society back then was still a kind of taboo among many people (despite today's obviousness), but it was a clear fact I deduced from my experience. Such experience made me feel good about myself, but I could not just ignore the fact that people was treating me based on a believe they have about me that wasn't true, based on my clothes symbolism. A believe on my power of acting, my power of causing others joy, biological and social harmony satisfaction, which they wish to acquire through me.
In 2008 I arrived in Ireland where I met great photographers and models who, thanks to them, I could learn from, build my portfolio with and get some jobs as photographer through. Over all, excluding some exceptions, we were not looking for money or status in a direct way but have fun, have joy. Models, makeup artists and photographers among other creators were happy to be part of projects for the creativity and joy sake, that consequently helped us in further opportunities in our respective industries. Enjoying and respecting each other's work without a snobbish attitude, aloofness, or competition about who has the privilege to be the joy provider to others but agreeing that we share joy among us, making we all feeling in harmony, working with each other, a biological (consequently emotional) and social harmony balance, all offering and acquiring the power of acting from each other, without the monetary gate keeping. Money? it always could be negotiated according to what we could afford. I was paying my bills working in a convenience store which was fine. My time in Ireland was the most joyful and prolific in my life, all that required little money but only trust. I found models searching among university students and I met many people through street photography.
Money is the value that gives us the power of acting, but we must not forget that the monetary value is not in the money itself but in the power of creation, of acting. This is the joy we are after and to truly obtain such joy it requires trust. Otherwise, the joy of monetary power monopoly creates envy and segregation, consequently social stress. John Berger says that the happiness of being envied is called glamour.
"Being envied is a solitary form of reassurance. It depends precisely upon not sharing your experience with those who envy you. You are observed with interest but you do not observe with interest - if you do, you will become less enviable. In this respect the envied are like bureaucrats; the more impersonal they are, the greater the illusion (for themselves and for others) of their power. The power of the glamorous resides in their supposed happiness: the power of the bureaucrat in his supposed authority.” ― John Berger, Ways of Seeing
I arrived in Germany with the expectation to continuous the photography life style I had in Ireland but I was wrong about it. Making contacts became rare, everybody is looking for money even though they don't need it. Being able to offer joy through my work became not enough, because people are not interested in sharing joy but in monopolize it through monetary status, using the money status as gate keeping, as trust symbol. Even among models and creators who look for no payment collaborative work, they often are looking for photographers who show to have fancy tools, a dedicated studio in a fix address. It doesn't matter to them the result and the joy of the activity unless it can be provided through monetary status, as the access to a monopolized joy which they can justify their aloofness and segregation.
It also results on a social fear, a distrust on people who look for joy sharing without segregation, suspicious of them as if they have second intentions, the intention to steal something from you maintained through the monetary gate keeping. Them seen as segregated from the privilege of your monopolistic joy, the ones who lack acting power and consequently have not much to provide as a joy, therefore desperate to take it from you.
Models and photographers seem to compete on their self importance, on who is the joy provider to the other, instead of enjoying it as a joy exchange though helping each other for a same result goal. People are not approachable because of the distrust that strangers attempt of interaction has either monetary or sexual (joyful) goal or is a mad person. The other human interaction attempt can only be about dubious intention of climbing and preserve the intrinsic joy of being the joy provider in a monopolistic status kept through monetary (and sexual) border.
I think the key is empathy and understanding of what really matters, what we are striving for. We are striving for balance that comes with joy. Through such understanding I suppose we can learn the importance of trust and honesty required for us to be able to enjoy life and society together. Because Being envied is a solitary form of reassurance.
Introduction: Here I try to present some of the ideas could grasp (so far) about the causes of our mental inquietude and drives caused by it. Also, how it was interpreted in some epochs and by some thinkers .
The comedian Jim Carrey said in an interview that with his comedy he has realized what all people want is to be free from concern. Despite the fact people usually don't take him seriously I don't think he said it casually. We tend to believe through thinking we will find understanding to things, solution to problems and knowledge but - the most likely - often we think to withdraw us from reality, without realizing it, so thinking becomes an addiction specially when we are going through stress.
We don't experience what is going on in our mind with our senses. It is as whatever we think about ceases to exist once it's projected in our mind. We experience our thinking through meaning, ceasing to be a somatic one. Or as Alan Watts used to say, those who think too much has nothing to think about other than their own thoughts. Hannah Arendt explained it in her book The Life of The Mind: "All thoughts arise out of experiences, but no experience yields any meaning or even coherence without undergoing the operation of imagining and thinking. Seen from the perspective of thinking, life in its sheer thereness is meaningless; seen from the perspective of immediacy of life and the world given to the senses, thinking is, as Plato indicated, a living death".
Plato's associating thinking to a living death wasn't his negative point of view though. While we are thinking we are unaware of our own corporeality, which Plato understood as achieving our pure soul quality. Plato philosophical tradition was perpetuated through Europe during Middle Ages and Renaissance by the Catholic church, influencing philosophers as Descartes who concluded "the soul can think without the body". This reflects the believe of a duality. The distinction between body and mind (soul).
Against the occidental philosophical tradition is the believe that we think because we have a body; the mind being a product of our body and not distinct from it. Again, thoughts arise out of experiences - from our body senses. As our experiences turn into thoughts the bodily experienced thing disappears. As Arendt puts it, "in order to appear in my mind only, it must first be de-sensed, and the capacity to transform sensed-objects into images is called imagination". The imagination deals only with what is absent to our senses. The mind deals with nothing other than itself. Perhaps we could say that the opposite of thinking is body experience - perceive with our senses.
On the other hand, as the Greek philosophers believed, only the spectator and never the actor can see and understand the spectacle of life, because the spectator is free from concerns. The spectator is not acting in the spectacle but only contemplating it. Different from the old occidental philosophical believe, something suggest this contemplation is not done through thoughts and imagination but only through somatic experiences.
I personally believe the best meaning we can give to life is leisure. As Aristotle understood it, not the free time we got after a day of work, not a play and not a recreation but the deliberate act of abstaining, of hold oneself back from the ordinary activity determined by our daily wants in order to contemplate it. This contemplation is the act of leisure, "which in turns was the true goal of all others activities, just as peace, for Aristotle, was true goal of war" - quoting Arendt again.
While for the Greeks "as spectator you may understand the 'truth' of what the spectacle is about; but with the price of have to pay a withdraw from participating in it", the oriental wisdom presented by Alan Watts suggest something different; that we can be both the actor and the spectator. As the Taoist story goes, imagine if you were god and knew all without surprises; how boring would it be!? So we play this theater of life for fun - just as children do their play sometimes taking it too serious and forgetting it's just a play - and as we grow older we forget who we are, we forget we are wearing a phony by taking it too serious and thinking it's what we are. The spectator is the one who can see the play and enjoy the spectacle while still playing it, only knowing now that it's all a play and people forgot about it. - Like actors playing a scene for a movie sometimes taking it too serious mistaking the playing character as themselves.
As I understand it - or from my point of view which is questionable - contemplation is the way we can experience what is around us with our body senses, until the moment we gain the awareness about the spectacle we are in, without our thinking distraction that alienates us from our somatic experiences. This is why I think art is important for. The thing that makes us stop and listen, see, feel through our senses. Pay attention on our somatic experience and step aside from the vicious meaning thinking.
Truth and meaning are not the same thing. Our thinking doesn't bring us the reality truth but meaning, because our verbal language, associated to words, is metaphorical and not analog to the mental images created from our somatic experiences. "Most people have experienced the odd sensation of estrangement that comes from looking long enough at a single object", says Siri Hustvedt in her book Mysteries Of The Rectangle. She goes on: "for all of us there was a time before we knew what things were called, and then the world looked different. Cézanne's still life are a rigorous effort to return to a vision unburdened by meaning". In other words, Cézanne attempt was to see in painting what was lost in language.
When we look, listen, feel hard enough, long enough we contemplate and find a world beyond meaning which tell us something else and which our verbal language is too limiting to comprise.
...and the truth about reality is it boredom. Nobody wants to be bored or at least most people seems incapable of being bored in our vicious entertainment culture.
Being able to talk about events is the most effective way to distance ourselves from reality. Once we concentrate on events, events about us, about others, about here or about anywhere else, we are not conscious about reality. Events are not reality, they are lapses of time and thoughts. Based on this principle we can say that reality is eventless.
Here is where the contradiction lies. Most people will say the opposite, associating reality to events, but which version or point of view of of events they are associating to reality? Which one is the real one? We could say all are real because they are the different side views of the same thing complement each other. But we could also say that none of them are real because they are analyses from thoughts and therefore language.
And the problem with language, which we humans have highly developed, is that it is always a translation. It is never reality but the organised thought of our perception. Therefore it is always a metaphor.
Our consciousness are never the feedback of our reality or of our existence in real time. It is a echo in a delayed time. And we get it by challenging reality because people don't believe in reality, everything has to be evaluated and giving a meaning because we can't stand a meaningless life.
We can then say that thought is not compatible with reality, which contradicts the discourse of reality and rationality. We rationalize to give meaning and objective. We create a illusion world in metaphors to push us to move forwards, to the next stage of objective and meaning. Language and writing are the illusion of meaning.
On the other hand, while we become seduced by all the joy and beautiful worlds of meaning which creates addicting meaningful events, reality itself must becomes enigmatic. If not enigmatic it becomes too obvious. If it is too obvious it doesn't seduce. If there is no seduction, there is no meaning. If there is no meaning, people won't take it serious. Like reality itself.
What makes some people suspicious about the "art status" of photography is the fact that the photo creation is highly dependable from a "photo machine". I have read a couple of years ago a study by an academic artist saying that photography is not art. His argument was about the technology limitation which the photographer is dependable to create his works.
For decades many photographers have tried to bring photography to the art discussion and galleries to make it more recognized as art. Until now a days with many people buying photographs and many photographers calling themselves as artists, there are still those who doesn't consider photography a true art. Or at least as artistic as painting or sculpture.
Recently I saw this question again when somebody wrote in an art community:
"When artist depends on machines (not tools) to create; the machines' capabilities are the controlling factors of the joint creations that comes from the union of artist with machine.
An Artist's tools on the other hand can be created by the hand of the artist and is not dependent on the bureaucracy of technology."
It is hard to don't agree with what the quote says. It is right.
But when thinking of cameras, are every camera machines? Certainly digital cameras are pure machines, or a body filled with electronic in it. But a true camera obscure is just an empty box, that can be made with any material, with a hole where the light comes in. Which means that it is not a machine at all but just a tool for the photographer as the brush is a tool for the painter.
Photographers can make their on negative (and positive images) preparing his own plate or paper sensible to light as painters can make their own canvas or any other material they which to paint on.
Cameras, negatives and even light have their limitation as canvas and ink have their limitation as well. What makes people feel more like an artist is the ability to craft with self expression and a vision for their creation in mind. The reason many photographers still use pinhole cameras or film negatives is because they can craft it with their own hands instead of just operate machines that are digital cameras and computers.
Yet, even when highly dependable of the machine work and capability, digital photographers and digital artists still can express their creativity and vision through their works. Which I think is what matter after all. Not much different from a director who is dependent from actors works and abilities, or from contemporary artists who have never touched their creation but paid somebody to build the work setting for them.
It is funny to think of it because before Renascence artists weren't considered artists as they are today. They were just crafter-men. Hand workers as any other.
Rules are for reproduction,
Art, thinking, reality and the contemplative mind.
My attention is not in technical perfectionism.