Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Probably my shortest blog ever. Be thankful.



In case y'all haven't noticed, Naseem and I are down to blogging every other day. It wasn't working out. We just need more time. It's not you; it's us. Really. We hope we can still be friends.

Anyway, so tonight I'm trying to sort out some thoughts that have been flying through my brain when I'm not being chased by children, having glue poured into my hair, or picking at my peeling suntan. This is a caveat to those who read this blog solely to get a rundown of our Honduran adventures: the first part of this blog may not be what you want to read, in which case I advise you to scroll to the bottom of the post. With that said, I'll continue with the scrutiny of my own behavior and strange thoughts.

I've been thinking a lot about the bond that exists among communication, perception, and reality. What really matters in regards to these concepts? Is what we perceive to be reality more important than actual reality, or vice versa? Do our differing perceptions make it impossible to communicate with one another in a real and authentic way?

One of my favorite subgenres of literature is impressionism, wherein the writer describes what is perceived, rather than what may or may not actually be the truth. For example, have you ever read Heart of Darkness? You should have, and if you haven't, it's probably because you were slacking off in high school lit class. Anyway, Marlow, the narrator, describes his search for the infamous Colonel Kurtz as he alone remembers it; this fact makes him an unreliable narrator. We can never know the true story of what happened in the Congo because all we have access to are his thoughts and memories. Here, the truth of reality is unattainable. The idea of this fascinates me, probably mainly because I struggle with this so much. Most people who know me pretty well know that I tend to have a slightly skewed perspective of the truth. I have to try really hard to think, as my therapist would say, objectively. My perception becomes my reality, and this in turn shapes how I respond to things and the ways in which I interact with people; so my perception of reality becomes pretty important. So which reality matters? Does it even matter at all in the long run, as long as we treat people lovingly?

How we think changes the way we approach everything, even in missions. We all have different worldviews and which worldview we hold to determines how we move forward in aiding the hungry, poor, and fatherless.

But how well can people ever understand each other if everyone follows his own perception of reality? Inevitably everyone will have different realities, thus fracturing our communication with one another. Can we ever truly understand each other? Is it possible to empathize or only to sympathize? For example, and I'm sorry to keep going back to literary genres but I am (hopefully) going to be a high school English teacher, for example, let's look at postmodernism. One of the defining characteristics of postmodern literature is the inability to communicate: in other words, there will inevitably be a breakdown in communication because our unique and individual experiences color our ideas of what reality is, thus we are sentenced to a life in which we will never understand each other. For example, last spring I read "Entropy", a short story of Thomas Pynchon; I won't try to summarize it because it's really complicated (but super cool), but there was a line in there which I can't remember word for word but I'll try to paraphrase. One of the characters is describing a fight he had with his lover and explains that they couldn't communicate. "For example," he says, "take 'I love you.' There's nothing wrong with the first and last words. It's the middle one that messes you up." It messes us up because we all have different ideas of what love is. What it means to me may be different than what it means to you. Based on this reasoning, it follows that we couldn't ever have a genuine conversation about love. Our perceptions of reality inevitably will differ. So is that really true? Can you ever understand me? Can I ever understand you? It's tricky, eh?

Does it even matter that we can't communicate? Does it all come down to grace? Can we look past our inability to understand everyone's individual perception and love everyone anyway? There's this quote from the movie The Last Kiss, which I watched by myself and cried, that I think may be applicable here: "What you feel only matters to you. It's what you do to the people you say you love, that's what matters. It's the only thing that counts." Maybe this is true. It's certainly a valid point. Perhaps it's selfish to make your perception your reality, but then again, I never claimed I was right in my actions. It's just how I function automatically, and generally my automatic behaviors are a little off. Or maybe I can continue to live in my own little world of skewed reality as long as my relationships are still authentic. Any thoughts?

Ok, that's it for now, I think, at least as far as my pseudo-philosophic rambling goes. Things at the orphanage are going well. Naseem and I have officially been here three weeks tomorrow. I started teaching Sarah Social Studies last week and I was sort of at a loss at where to start, so I channeled my nerdy side (not that that was too difficult) and decided to teach her Greek mythology. This has probably been my lowpoint in dorkiness. Wait, no, I take that back: one time Kerry and Nolan wanted to write about Smeogal from Lord of the Rings and they said he was a human before he became Gollum, but we all know that's just not true. Don't worry, I corrected them and let them know that Smeogal was a River-folk, a creature sort of like a hobbit. Then I died because I knew that.

Anyway, so Sarah loves Greek mythology. In other news, Naseem and I have decided that Brandon still hates me. Tonight he was laughing and being generally pleasant in the kitchen, then I walked in, and he immediately gave me the death stare, as I have affectionately started calling his default look. It was terrible. Like daggers.

Sorry I don't have any other funny stories but Naseem and I were off half the day yesterday so we weren't around too much, and today it rained all day so the kids were pretty mellow. I'm sure as soon as I exit this I'll think of something hilarious to report. This blog is lame. My apologies. Please keep reading.

Peace,
Alison

5 comments:

Nate said...

thanks a lot mrs. wittgenstein ;-)
Your philosphical meanderings bring up 2 strong conflicting emotions:

1. why the hell do we have to make things that really are clear and simple, complicated and cloudy?

2. Dang i like thinking about crazy stuff like this

you seemed to have tapped into my love/hate relationship with philosophy

Anonymous said...

I was going to respond last night, but I had to sleep on it.

In order to be conceptualized, everything must travel through a type of hermeneutic we have in order frame what we experience in such a way to provide meaning. Maybe that's why so many of us face crises... they are the results of experience conflicting with what our hermeneutic tells us is true. Within all these layers of personal subjectivity of course it leads us to wonder if we ever really know what is actual and what is conceptual.

For example, in my psycho moments, I look at the mirror and wonder if I'm seeking what I want (or don't want) to see and that maybe have have some crazy disfigurement that my mind and others have chosen to ignore. Psycho mode off.

If we then dwell in the conceptual, then how can anything be discussed? The shared hermeneutic of the human experience. Naturally there are differences in details, but, as humans, these stories overlap at some point to make some overwhelming Venn Diagram of the human condition.

Huh?

ryansupak said...

(This is for both you great gals...I'm just posting here because this one is on top.)

(As another sidebar, I studied* postmodern philosophy in college -- meaning I hung out in bars with a lot of the philosophy profs but flunked out of their classes.)

It's fun to watch you guys flesh out the fact that tolerance is a two-edged sword: just because you're more educated than the islanders are doesn't mean that your view of the supernatural is any better than theirs -- what's more they may secretly find you just as backward as you find them!

As usual, the way forward is the liberal application of grace and faith.

I was thinking the other day about how similar "grace" and "faith" are: both are the act of accepting that you don't have all the info about a situation, but being OK with it and still acting in submission to whats right.

The main difference, as I see it, is that "grace" is an outward thing but "faith" is an inward thing. Other than that the germ of both seems to be the same to me.

rs

ryansupak said...

ps, when yall rotate back to Houston let's all go out and get totally wasted.

Jason Raschen said...

Posting every other day? WWJD?

No one should ever reference or even think about The Last Kiss. Except the soundtrack which is awesome.