Participation

In the last few week of self-isolation, I’ve started to think about what participation means for/to me. I’m on an average day, a confirmed and proud introvert and relish in the silence and isolation of my own world and have always jokingly said that if given half a chance, I’ll be a very content hermit.

But.

And it’s a big but.

If I so should choose, I could always contact a friend or family member, climb out of my self-imposed isolation womb and meet up in person, exchange a hug and watch their faces while we are having a natter, show happiness, discontent, anger and pleasure. Soak up their vibes, give more energy if they need more, take whatever they are willing to part with, and fill that part of myself that is void from avoiding interaction. Cause, although I can benefit from that level of connection, I am depleted afterwards. The bane of an introverted empath.

I have always avoided crowds or any large gathering of people – my membrane is just too thin and I bathe in their emotion like a wrung out sea sponge craving moisture. The barrier that protects me from feeling whatever they are feeling is gone and whether it is extreme happiness or extreme sadness, baby, I take it all on. Worst thing you can ask me to do is go to a concert or go shopping on a Saturday morning at the end of the month. Just don’t. Please.

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Where my participation have always been peppered with conditions, how short sighted does that way of life seem right about now? I miss touching people and hugging them and exchanging that non-verbal communication thing that I thrive on. When we talk to each other not using words or gestures but “talk” to one another on that other level, you know the one? Call it intuition. Call it higher self. Call it energetically. I don’t care. Call it whatever you want, I miss THAT.

Yes I can video call you. Yes I can message you. Yes I can phone you. Yes I can text my little heart out to you. But fuck it. Nothing comes to actually seeing you, touching you, smelling you (yeah…I do have a smidge of hyperosmia and some of my favourite people do smell delightful to me), looking at you and the way your eyes talk back to me. I miss my tribe dammit.

So where does that leave my current participation involvement? Facebook. Messenger. Instagram. Texting. Video calling. A tad impersonal, not so?

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Participation is directly related to the society we are accustomed to and that society has changed in tremendous ways. Is this remote way of communication the new normal? Since Plato’s days, when the whole concept of participation has been part of philosophical discussions, to me, the whole idea is still quite obscure and an ideal level of engagement is an unknown, more now than ever before.

The principle remains the same though, whether we are meeting face to face or via Zoom. There is no ideal level it seems and what I always thought is the most effective form, has dramatically changed in the last few months.

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My perception-musing has taken me down the garden path a bit but through this I have come to realize that participation is a dynamic process. It takes varying forms and the life cycle of whatever method of participation you choose, does evolve, and is centered on need.

As long as I’m present, I am participating.

“In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia.” – Milan Kundera

Liminality

A few years ago I started a personal project called Alienation, where I wanted to explore how we distance ourselves from various matters. Our health, our work, other people, ourselves and nature.

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Since then the project has evolved into a more personal journey, brought about by the upheaval of moving from one continent to another and trying to find my feet and my ‘murican tribe.  The challenges are on a visceral level and is just a smidge more than what I anticipated.

I am compelled to go scratch in places that I didn’t even know I had and to confront latent feelings with a raw honesty that scares the bejeesus out of me. All the time, trying not to judge myself too harshly.

Alienation_Lost 8x10Yup. I’m climbing that Mount Everest without oxygen. In fact, most days I feel that I forgot to put on the damn parka and that my Sherpa is lying drunk in his tent back at base camp.

Slowly but surely and with a healthy dose of courage, I’ve stopped teeter-tottering and found my footing.  My designated social position started changing and I managed to jump the liminal stage and went straight to acceptance status. In Monopoly terms, I vroomed pass go and absolutely collected those friendship-dollars.

And then BAM! Hello Corona.

Fuck.

Whether you are tsk-tsk-ing at the extreme measures being taken across the world or whether you are laying in the fetal position reading the book Panic 101, we all have the same thing in common at the moment: Our lives are in a holding pattern.

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I feel that my modest personal project is very apt at this stage and I do find comfort in that. Will it progress into something else yet again? Or is this a culmination of the two evolutions?

Where there was an almost unconscious acceptance in distancing ourselves from so many issues pre-virus, we are now forced to do so. I think it is a fantastic opportunity to (again…..) reassess the way I live my life and the impact I have on everything around me.

Alienation_Perception Deception 8x10It will be tough going for a while, nonetheless, I am dusting off my big girl panties (even though they are fucking uncomfortable) and attempt to address everything that is off-kilter in my little world.

No, I didn’t try and make the virus thing about me at all. But it does give one pause for a bit of self-reflection, not so?

Stay safe and practice that social distance like a mofo.

Heart and Home

I am not politically inclined at all and avoid CNN, BBC, newspapers, etc. at every turn. If it’s not on Facebook I know sweet-nothing that goes on in the world and we all know that if it is on social media it must be true….cough, cough.

The recent spate of gun violence in the states though and the ongoing day to day murder in South Africa has had me thinking. Here I am in the states, my nether regions hanging somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic cause my heart is here but my home is in South Africa, fighting the need to compare the two very different worlds. It is a pointless exercise for me and I can’t see a positive outcome of the analogy.

I just finished watching Years and Years and in the last episode, the grandmother says something that really hit home for me. I can’t remember the exact words but what I took away was that we are ALL responsible for what happens in the world. If we stand by and do nothing or say nothing, we are complicit to whatever the outcome is. One of the examples that she used was self-checkout counters. We no longer have to ‘deal’ with the human factor when paying for our groceries. We no longer have to make eye contact. We no longer have to show compassion for a person doing an unpretentious job. We no longer have to care. A simple thing these self-checkout counters, right? Mmmmm…or was it another little nudge down the slippery slope of disconnect?

The other thing that jumps to mind is Pitbull Terriers. A whole breed of dog has been vilified and are not welcome in most areas of the world. It was never the breed and has always been the people training them or hurting them that caused them to lash-out. Yet, I did absolutely nothing, except feeling sorry for these dogs, in the comfort of my own home. If the label of killer-dog was hung on say, Labradors, would more people start caring? It’s a question of “Oh well, it’s not my poodle that’s got the bad rap, so I’m not going to get involved.” What if, in 2 year’s time, that label gets slapped on Puffy-the-Poodle? Would we only care then? Would I only get up from my judgmental arse and actually do something to break the stigma?

I was in Washington DC this past weekend and visited the Holocaust Museum. I dripped and leaked with compassion and empathy while walking through the space and was nauseated by the cruelty these people had to suffer. It’s beyond my little brain to comprehend all that they had to face and endure. The slogan that I saw over and over again on the posters at the museum, said ‘Never Again’. And when I left, I though how ironic that slogan was. Because is something similar not happening right now? I know about the camps on the Mexican border but I’m sure it is happening all over the world in all countries where displaced people, immigrants, etc. are not wanted? Like I said, I avoid the news so am assuming here, but atrocities are not secular.

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What my bottom line is after musing this over, is that there are no US and THEM. We have all played a part in fucked-up things happening. We are also all responsible for the good things that happen and even though it feels some days that they are few and far between, there is still good, happy and positive things that occur on a daily basis. If we can stop pointing fingers and stop blaming and start taking responsibility for our actions, our thoughts, our judgement and our attitude towards other people, maybe, just maybe the killing will stop. Call me naïve. Call me idealistic. I’ll gladly wear those labels if it will bring about progressive change.

Nothing what I’ve said is new or terribly enlightened. The penny just hit my head so hard that it left a bruise.

I’ll keep on pondering my role in all of this world’s mayhem and I’ll keep on taking pictures, sometimes thought provoking, occasionally pretty but always demonstrative.