Friday, April 12, 2013

Show Thyself

We do not really know each other, do we?

Many factors, converging to one thought: masks.


Various people have said that the self is too immutable and mysterious a thing to discover and that self-knowledge can only be achieved through oblique methods: doing stuff and learning about yourself from how you acted. I am not disagreeing at all. I am merely focusing on the second part of the process: reflection.

Various people have said that when you define yourself by what you're not, you give up your control over your identity. I am disagreeing with that: cutting away the aspects of yourself that are not actually you helps. Start removing masks. You may never reach your real face but there will be less weighing you down.


I've been planning a post about how clothing choices reflect self for a while, but I don't think it's worth it waiting to put those observations into their own post. Thus: the way one dresses conveys a message of the self to the world. Physical presentation is a shorthand for telling others what you're like.

Since it's spring I've been going through the normal routine of digging out my warm-weather clothes and consigning my sweaters to the back of my closet. As I do so, I come across clothes that I used to wear a lot but that now do not seem accurately to reflect who I am and what I want to be perceived as. Because I am a teenage girl living in a white-bread suburb, I have too many clothes already: by subtraction I achieve a set of garments that I can don without second-guessing myself.

Relevant quote:

When a girl feels that she's perfectly groomed and dressed she can forget that part of her. That's charm.
-F. Scott Fitzgerald

To reinterpret: wear clothes that do not get in the way of who you are.

Yet more relevant quote:

An authentic life is when your inner life finds full, compelling expression in your outer life.
-Justine Musk

So I swear I'm not just a shallow kid (I am a shallow kid, but not just that): this talk of clothes is really only a facet of how people either mask or show who they are.


But clothing choices are conscious. When a girl (or a boy, but I'm a girl so I'll use an example about which I know something) chooses to wear x in set {yoga pants, jeans, dress, shorts, sweats}, she is aware of the implications of her choice. She knows, even if she doesn't articulate it to herself, what people will conclude about her based on what she's wearing.

In the morning when you choose your clothing you also choose from the masks lined up on the dresser. But there are other masks that are fused to the face, that sink in while you are asleep, and those are just as interesting as the ones protecting us from the world.


While I disagree with Marx on almost everything, I do believe he was onto something by emphasizing the dialectic process. Everyone is a reactionary to something. I do love physics, but the reason I don't shut up about it is probably because of the way a lot of people involved in the arts seem to put down science and technology. Last month a friend, of sorts (meaning we've known each other since elementary school but have never been close) called me out on affecting to be less feminine than I really am, because of the social stigma equating two X chromosomes with weakness.

Notice the direction of both these masks. More STEM, more masculine: more powerful, in short.

Now I'm about to quote something with which I initially took umbrage, but which surprised me with working. I ask you: suspend disbelief. We are both probably stubborn people (most people think of themselves as determined), but please, reserve judgment until you have tried it.

I quote extensively from Justine Musk: how to unlock personal truth through intuitive writing.
Take a piece of paper and pen...Write down the question

If I were an animal, what animal would I be?

Clear your mind.

Write down your answer.

Now...switch your pen to your other hand, your nondominant writing hand, and keep it there.

Look over the question.

Take a deep, calming breath and settle into your mind again.

Put pen to paper. Don’t worry about the fact that your handwriting is about to resemble the scrawls of a psychotic first grader. Open yourself to the exercise. Suspend criticism. Just let yourself answer the question however you will; let the thoughts flow.
Do it. Seriously. Go.
Chances are you wrote down two different answers.
I did.
When answering with their dominant hand, most people write down horse, dog, cat or bird.

(I was no different. When I did this exercise, my dominant-hand answer was tiger.)
 I - er - wrote down dragon.
This tends to be an aspirational answer. In other words, this is how you would like to see yourself. This is the self-image to which you aspire.
Dragon is indeed aspirational: big, deadly, too powerful to ignore, with opportunity for magnanimity. In books, the dragon is usually wise or snarky, and can definitely take care of itself.
When we switch over to the nondominant hand, the answers get a lot more interesting.
Indeed. I wrote down - to my immense surprise - siphonophore:

The subconscious is constantly absorbing and processing information, sending up hunches, flashes of insight, gut feelings. By switching the pen to your nondominant hand, it’s like you find a way to surface this hidden stream of nonverbal intelligence and translate it to words on the page.

The answer you wrote down with your nondominant hand is how you actually see yourself.
Not sure how I feel about being a creature that dissolves into gelatin when you take it out of water. What if school is my "water" and I'm unable to function in the real world?
We want to think of ourselves as powerful – but is being the biggest, strongest, most “dangerous”, the only way to be powerful?

After a little bit of research:
Most siphonophores are sit and wait predators- after an active bout of swimming they cast a wide net of tentacles and wait for fish and crustaceans to swim into them. Most of the nematocysts of siphonophores are tightly packed into the side branches of the tentacles, called tentilla. It has previously been hypothesized that the tentilla of some shallow-dwelling species look like small crustaceans when illuminated by the sun, and that they act as lures that attract fish to their nematocysts (Purcell, 1980).

This cuts against what I usually think of myself. In fencing I always attack first; in roshambo, I always throw rock. But I do like the thought of being the kind of person who can set and spring a trap, that conquers through stillness. A big, mysterious, unnerving, serene creature. A beautiful monster.

I could live with that.


Music for this week:

Welcome to the Masquerade - Thousand Foot Krutch

No comments:

Post a Comment