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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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Letter – a work of fiction

Dear Julie,

     I couldn’t help but notice how nice your hair smelled today.  It was so beautiful in the sunshine, it took all of my self-control to not run my fingers through it.  I also couldn’t help but notice that you had lunch with that man again, I thought that my previous letters would have alerted you to how disastrous a relationship with this person might be, surely he could not love you as much as I do, but that is beside the point, I am sure you will realize that I am right on this point.  Have you told him about me?  Silly me, asking such questions, he would know better than to intrude on our relationship.

     I have been trying to decide what I would get you for your birthday this year.  I never see you wearing the earings that I bought you last year.  I have been trying to think of something more personal, something that you can cherish, something to remind you of my love.

     The first time we met my life changed.  You were so young and beautiful.  You were wearing that little pink sweater.  I remember how pretty your hair was in that ponytail,  I thought it a shame that you cut it all off.  I know you didn’t mean it to be hurtful to me, after all, I did say how much I liked it.  I am glad that you are growing it out again.  It’s much better looking when it is long.  It would have looked so beautiful streaming down your back at graduation.  But that was a long time ago, I barely knew you then, not like now.

     I hate to keep harping on about it, but that man you had lunch with… he is so much like that boy you were dating back then.  Richard something or other.  I tried to warn you about him.  You wouldn’t listen then either, I don’t know if you know, but I finally had to talk to him, I mean, really, even then you knew that we were destined to be together.  I know you had to have your fun, but he was getting a little too serious, he thought he could steal you from me.  I hope this one doesn’t make the same mistake.  Richard whatshisface just wouldn’t believe me when I told him you were mine.  Even after you moved away, I knew you were getting away from him, you knew that I would find you, no matter where you went.  The connection between us is too strong to ever be broken by miles.  Richard didn’t have that connection with you.

     Anyway, that’s all in the past.  We are the future.  I should go now, I will see you soon anyway, but I wanted to tell you that I love you and think of you always.

                                                                                                                                     Love and Devotion,

                                                                                                                                     Your Secret Admirer

 

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The Space Around Anger

A Statement of Personal Self-Concept

One thing that I am not always happy to admit is that I have a lot of anger.  This is not to say that I am an angry person.  In the past, I have been an angry person – I allowed my anger to control my vantage of the world and those who inhabit the world.  It was a familiar filter through which every decision, every perception and every relationship would have to pass through.  I was not a happy person, nor was I a  pleasant person to be around.

These days, I try to pass the world through a different filter – one of optimism.  You see, optimism is the space around anger.

Anger is not a primary emotion.  I learned this through acting.  When you are angry it is in response to something else.  Surprise – say, when someone cuts in front of you on the freeway – leads to fear at the possibility of harm, and then anger at the individual that presented the threat of that harm.  The anger is not really at the individual, but rather the aggressive counter to fear.  Fight or Flight.

Frustration is another good instigator for anger.  For me, ignorance and social injustice are mammoth triggers of frustration.  Mostly because the aforementioned evils serve no real purpose other than as camouflage for the further aforementioned fear.  Become a bully before someone else is given an opportunity to bully you.  When faced with ignorance or social injustice I am faced with two options.

Option One:  Make like the Unibomber, wrapped up in isolation and my own sense of superiority and proceed to destroy all those I deem unworthy.Problems – aside from all illegality murderous,  sociopathic, hypocritical and generally not productive or helpful.

Option Two:  CHOOSE to assume that ignorance is not self-imposed and can quite nicely be swept away with knowledge and/or constructive disapproval.  Social Injustice – well, can be solved with a little active justice – don’t you think.  A big rally is not always necessary, a single person saying, that is not acceptable – and then calmly explaining why it is not acceptable, that can work too, AND ANYONE CAN DO IT.  Problems – takes an awful lot of patience and extremely thick skin.

Option One is a choice made within anger.  Option Two, a choice made from the space around anger.   But how do you find the space around anger?  That is the big question, isn’t it?

Think about a fight with a loved one.  JJ can make me so angry that I see the entire color spectrum behind my eyes, I lose any and all ability to string words into a sentence (that is a BAD thing with me) and I lose motor function beyond banging my head (fist/foot) against a wall.  But the thing about it is… I love the man.  As social creatures we always get angriest with those we love the most, but we still love them.  We forgive them because of that love.  With JJ, whenever I am the most angry – and this is a direct result of my time with the Medical Examiners Office – I think of him as no longer there.  I have no choice in this vision, my grief for those lost in war has become the home for my anger.  Whenever I go down that slippery slope of rage, it is here where I settle.  In that moment where I envision JJ as no longer alive in this world, my anger cannot survive – it is after all, a secondary emotion.

My love, my grief at the loss of the man far outweighs any temporary anger I feel toward a situation.  And in an instant all of the anger I was feeling vanished, replaced by an overwhelming gratitude that he is still in my life, alive – pissed beyond all measure – but breathing.

This works with JJ, my mother, my sisters, my friends…. heck… if you think about it,if I want to stay away from the hypocrisy of the Unibomer (isolation, absurd sense of superiority) – it can work for the entire human race.

The space around anger

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2010 in Coffee Shop Whore?, Confessions

 

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Potential and Waste

I had an interesting conversation today.

It was about a person’s potential.  How can you determine how much potential an individual has?

This is a serious question… I really want to know.  I never thought of potential in terms of limits or boundaries, I have always associated it with desire and drive.  This man today said that I was a trouble maker.  I’m not a troublemaker – maybe a troublefinder, but not troublemaker.  I speak my mind and he told me that I would never be taken seriously because I was too ‘uppity’, and ‘fiesty’.

Can someone translate that for me?  I know it wasn’t meant to be a compliment, but I still can’t see the problem.

Oh, and JJ found this article in The Press Democrat (San Fran area  paper) and knew I would love it, I do, and I want to share…

cool article

I like this guy!

I am working on another  episode of Generations, so don’t think that I have forgotten about that, it is coming soon, I am starting to settle into a home rhythm so I should be able to get back into my writing rhythm.

Hope all is well.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2010 in Confessions

 

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A Preface to the Question of Self-Concept

     I have three lap-top computers.  To most people, that is a bit excessive.  Considering how non-computer literate I am, some might wonder how I became that person… well, it all started with a Toshiba, an LCD screen, a highly priced case of very low quality and a road trip.  Somewhere along this road trip, my Toshiba met with tragedy.  A single point of impact, a spiderweb of cracks,  and only a third of a functioning screen later – I bought my Acer Mini-PC.

     The Acer is a neat little computer, friendly – except with anything that involves audio – but generally gets a lot of compliments on its cuteness.  The problem with the Acer:  It is SMALL, which is good when I have it strapped to my back and I am riding my bike, but not so good when I have to  read a textbook online.

     Which brings me to my HP Pavilion 9000, which I bought – used – from someone who didn’t know its value.  This wonderful computer, my dream lap-top in fact,  came Microsoft Vista, which some may know has its problems.  My Norton AntVirus subscription ended taking with it my ability to log onto the internet.  While Windows 7 promises to solve my internet-woes, I cannot log on and download the severely discounted (and about all I can afford) Student Edition.  Sadly, the Acer, in all of its cuteness, does not have a CD-ROM drive.  Sigh.

     I do have a point in telling you all of this sad tale.  You see, with only one out of three PC’s functioning entirely – I have been shuffling files.  I have a lot of files…. I very rarely delete something I have downloaded/ripped/written/critiqued/edited…etc.  While surfing through curiosity of the past, the proverbial light bulb came on.

I am gleefully clapping my hands like  little girl singing “I want to share, I want to share” but before I do so , I must bypass the detailed dissections of Plans B, C and D and just come out and tell you what they were.  Afterall, that is where all of the files came from.

  • (1998-2004ish) — Plan A (some may recall) was Politics by way of the Navy.
  • (2004 – 2006)  —- Plan B – removed me as far as possible from Plan A – The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Hollywood, CA  http://www.aada.org/home/home.html
  • (2006-2008½)  – Plan C – Brought me back to school in order to study ‘the sciences’ I had neglected in the past.  Ironically, I had hit a creative wall when writing a science-fiction story – I didn’t understandthe ‘science’ in my story, but I knew it ‘sounded’ good – sorry, the ‘Because I said so…’ defense does not fly with the scifi. 

The next leap does require a little explaining as there were several factors involved.

  1. The right side of my brain was feeling abandoned.
  2. Individuals with the misguided belief that ‘science’ was superior to ‘art’
  3. A general accepted belief that ability in one meant inability in the other
  4. Tutoring https://missfionna.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/when-does-it-start/
  5. ‘Science’ professionals at the VA Hospital insisting that the answer to all of my problems would be the addition of another medication
  • (2008½- late 2009) –Plan D – alternated between two  equally valid and interesting paths,
  1. The use of Acting Techniques in therapeutic use when treating PTSD
  2. A supplementary education program combining academic studies in a comprehensive, context based forum. (how’s that for a pitch-phrase???)  Basically, a conversation that explains how everything fits together. 

Luckily, both these areas could benefit from a single foundation.  I began a degree in Psychology. 

     Which brings me to 2010 where I am venturing into Plan E, which consists of no real plan other than to just keep going with whatever comes along – and above all, FINISH SOMETHING.

Wow, after all that I sure hope my ‘sharing time’ is worth it….  I’ll let you be the judge of that.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2010 in Coffee Shop Whore?, Confessions

 

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