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Hell is Other People

     Hell:  A netherworld where the dead continue to exist, where the damned suffer everlasting punishment, torment or destruction.  In Jean-Paul Sartre’s one act play, No Exit, the three characters discover that hell is a hotel room.  Garcin, the first to arrive – therefore the only occupant to experience solitude – later decided that “Hell is other people”.  If this statement is true, it is only because they have been given that power.  Other people are external forces and, as such, a distance or separation exists with them.  Whatever thoughts or opinions imparted from them are subject to interpretation.  In contrast, our own thoughts are internal, subject to self-deception and denial – both which collapse without reinforcement from external influence.  Hell becomes the search for self with no opportunity to experience self.

     In ‘Being for Others’, Sartre states “The Other looks at me and as such he holds the secret of my being, he knows what I am”.  The ‘Other’ has an impression of what ‘he’ sees, but how much influence can ‘he’ hold as an external force?  How can ‘he’, as an external force, hold a ‘secret’ that ‘I’ as an internal force, have not given him.  Sartre uses the word ‘what’ in reference to his ‘I’; this indicates that he is objectifying himself.  The objectification is not a reflection of what the other person sees of him, but rather what he perceives the other person sees.  This is indicative of how he sees himself in the others eyes.

     Sartre wishes to recognize the ‘freeze-frame’ that accompanies first impressions.  Sartre claims that Bad Faith is “…a certain art of forming contradictory concepts which unite in themselves both an idea and the negation of that idea … a facticity and a transcendence … two aspects of human reality that are and ought to be capable of a valid coordination.”  The idea of first impressions is an example these contradictory concepts and the possible breakdown in coordination.  First impressions are subject to circumstance, context or physical attributes such as gender or race, wherein the impression is a reflection of the other person’s biases or experience.  This first impression has little to do with the ‘I’ being observed, and more to do with the ‘other’ observing.  The breakdown in coordination occurs when the perceived opinion of another holds more weight than that which we have of ourselves.  To allow a strangers impression to influence one’s sense of self-image is a reflection on one’s own self-image.  If no interaction has occurred, then the impression perceived may or may not be accurate or well-informed.  We see ourselves in another’s eyes, but it is a reflection of what we present to them.

     In No Exit, Garcin initially wishes to continue in solitude, wishing the opportunity for self-reflection.  To the two women who have joined him in the suite he states “we’ll work out our salvation, looking into ourselves”.  He is not afforded his solitude.  He later reveals doubts regarding the actions that led to his demise.  He questions whether he was standing by his belief’s or whether he was a coward running from responsibility.  The only salvation that he can conceive is the affirmation of the former from another person.  Without that other person, or external influence, he would be trapped in this question alone, coward or martyr.  This is hell.  If one is in Hell for all time, then there is little to distract from the internal debate.  Every moment and every decision that one makes in one’s life would be measured to determine the validity of ones existence.

     Sartre states “…I choose myself from day to day, and I make it mine by making myself.” The day to day decisions we make shape our personality, our acceptance or denial of consequences shape our character. If Garcin saw himself as a coward, he masked it by hiding behind principles.  His evasion may be successful to onlookers, but never to himself.  A mask means nothing when no one is there to see it.  If a first impression becomes a lasting impression, it is because we do nothing to expand or inform that impression.  If we allow others to dictate who we are, then we are condemned to accept the role in which we have been cast.  If Hell is eternal, it is these decisions that we must reconcile or, at the very least, recognize.  Each of the characters in No Exit required affirmation of some sort from the other. They relinquished control of their self-image and consequently their self-worth.  They cannot find salvation from within because they do not recognize themselves from within; they only recognize how they are seen from another’s point of view.

     Hell as other people comes not in the condemnation of others, but rather in the affirmation of others.  As long as one can deceive an onlooker they can deceive themselves.  When the only company that remains is ourselves, it is ourselves that we must come to appreciate.  When we learn to appreciate ourselves we are no longer condemned to everlasting suffering, we are no longer in Hell.

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2013 in Confessions, philosophy, psychology

 

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True Confession

          When I started ‘Confessions of a Coffee Shop Whore’ I wanted a home for my fiction.  It did not take me long to realize that fiction was not what I needed to write.  In fact, the harder I tried to focus on fiction, the more I became distracted by my reality.  I was not sure how to write about my reality.  I had always been a story-teller and that was not the same as being a writer.

            I had never really identified myself as a writer.  This is an odd concept to explain, so bear with me.  For as long as I can remember, I have entertained myself with absurd little stories.  These stories matured with me, gaining depth and complexity as I grew older and learned more words.  Whatever I learned whether in school or in life invariably found its way into my little fantasy world.  My stories became an embodiment of my education.  My stories helped me make sense of the world.

            I didn’t start writing my stories down until I was eighteen.  I can actually recall that first writing experience.  I don’t remember what I wrote, but I remember quite clearly my state of mind.  I was in despair; violent, self-destructive despair.  I was far away from all that was familiar and alone in an unforgiving and unsympathetic environment.  The back of a duty roster became my confidant. 

On the page I could separate myself.  My problems became obstacles for my characters to overcome.  In my stories I could say what was on my mind without fear or consequence.  Still, I did not consider myself a writer.  I was a sailor who liked to write in her spare time.

My characters became my best friends.  They traveled with me, consoled me and they never pressured me or made me feel ashamed.  People were not nearly as accommodating.  When you are in the military, people and places are temporary and sadly interchangeable.  True connections are few and far between; at least they were for me.

I wrote throughout my time in the Navy, tending toward the dark and sinister corners of human nature, nicely disguised in fantasy or science fiction.  After signing my discharge papers and heading to LA I adopted the sunshine into my narrative, but soon I was distracted by school.  Once again I was processing whatever lessons I learned by writing it out.  I would twist and turn each idea until I could see it from every angle.  I turned those angles into characters, and those characters began to have voices different from my own.  They came to life, independent and complicated, and for the first time, unique.  I was no longer the main character of my stories.  Yet still, I was a student who liked to write in her spare time.

Spare time…such a common and unassuming pair of words, but ah, the illusion they create…  There is no such thing as spare time.  Time may be occupied by a variety of activities, but it is most definitely occupied.  My stories gained life because I was living.  My characters became independent because I became independent.  My mind was active, synapses were firing, connections were being made, and input was producing output.  My time was fully occupied, but still I thought I needed more time.

I thought that shifting into full-time writer status would be a breeze, after all, the creative juices were flowing, I had more ideas than I knew what to do with… if only I didn’t have that test to study for or that chapter to read… if only I had more time to dedicate to writing… if only.  A few months after I was out of school the ideas dried up.  I had plenty of time to write, but I had nothing to write about.  No input, no output.  And if I have nothing to write about, how can I call myself a writer?  This is the spiral I found myself in last year.

I may have been blocked on my fiction, but I did discover something new about my writing.  I discovered my voice again.  Somewhere along the way I stopped needing a character to speak for me.  Suddenly it became more important to speak for myself – to take back ownership of me – to no longer bury my thoughts in plot lines and dialogue.  But that was not how I had envisioned my blog and I didn’t know how to adjust.

When my computer crashed I found it impossible to keep up with the blog.  I had no theme, no continuity, no criteria from which to build a body of work.  I was writing myself into circles and corners.  In retrospect, writing for a self-imposed deadline, and then stressing about it, is rather idiotic.  I was the worst boss I had ever had and I should have known better.  I needed to step back and regroup… but I did not want to admit failure… (what plan am I on now?)

So, back to where I started with this thing.  I am a writer who occasionally works elsewhere in a non-writing capacity.  Not only does this non-writing occupation of my time help put food on the table, it also provides input to keep the output flowing.  Fiction or not, I am writing.

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2011 in Confessions

 

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Computer Issues

Just when I thought I was getting things together… my ONLY working computer, STOPPED WORKING!!!!!!! As I have no library card – and therefore a miniscule amount of ‘guest’ access – I am once again delinquent on my postings. I have six minutes remaining on my borrowed computer. I want to cry.

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2010 in Confessions

 

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Alphabet Fiction

I mentioned something I have named ‘Alphabet Fiction’ a while back.  Well, now I am going to expand on it a little bit.

As you may know, I have a slight obsession with the dictionary.  My Handy-Dandy is a source of comfort, security and wisdom.  Oftentimes, it is also a source of inspiration.  Some of you may remember The Dictionary Distraction (https://missfionna.wordpress.com/2010/03/31/the-dictionary-distraction/) well, Alphabet Fiction follows a similar thought process.

Choose 5 – 10 words that begin with the same letter.  Even better if they are within the same dictionary page.

Use the definitions of these words to create a story line.

The title of the story MUST begin with the same letter as the words chosen. (the main title word… not ‘A’ or ‘The’, etc.)

The idea is based on flash fiction (500 words or less) but I bet that longer works could easily be developed using this technique.  I haven’t tried anything longer… but one day I will make that attempt.

I am interested to know if anyone gives it a try.  I am on outline phase with “D”.

Hope all is well,

Fionna


 
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Posted by on June 14, 2010 in Confessions

 

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Media Misunderstanding and Modern Inspiration

I firmly stand by the idea of Escapism…. especially when I don’t like myself very much.  I have been irritating myself recently, delving into self-pity more than usual, and that is just a waste of time.  So, as a way to occupy a few hours of my time, I decided to watch a movie.

One thing that I am not sure I have mentioned before:  I take movies VERY seriously.  I give myself over to the story completely, I take no aspect of the creative process for granted.  I savor lighting, camera angle, score, dialogue…. ALL OF IT.  I view movies as vehicles for emotional exploration.  To me, there is no such thing as a bad movie, for that label is much to vague.  Much like every other statement or opinion, I want support and specifics.  There are very few movies out there that I honestly view as ‘perfect’.

When I feel like my life is difficult or that I am fighting against terrible odds, the true obstacle is (as Richard mentioned in his comment) my perspective.  Specifically, I have come down with a case of the ‘poor, poor, pitiful me’ narcissism.  The perfect cure for this ailment:

If you have not seen this movie, I definitely recommend it.  The fact that is a true story only makes it that much more of an inspiration.

I am in awe at the power of the song, Amazing Grace, more so in the story of the man who wrote it.  But I am humbled beyond measure and forever grateful for the man who was inspired by it.  For those of you who are not familiar with the movie, it is the story of William Wilberforce, the politician who dedicated his life to ending the slave trade in Great Britain.

It is possible for one person to change the world.

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2010 in Confessions

 

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