life between the pages

“I spent my life folded between the pages of books.
In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction.”
Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

Sunday, August 05, 2007

tears & laughter

those of you who know me are more than likely aware that i get choked up about certain things. for instance, i can not watch the part of sound of music where maria comes back to the von trapp children, striding across the lawn, her silvery voice picking up the notes to "my favorite things," just as they become unable to sing for sadness from missing her. my face was a blindingly wet marshmallow when we left the theater after "bridge to terabithia." for goodness sakes! they shouldn't make such movies. my armor gets all cracked.

but then again, thank god they do.

don't get me wrong. i am perfectly sensible when situations require it, i don't get all silly in an emergency and can drive on through the darkest rain. it's just that since reaching adulthood i feel the tug and pull on the strings that hold the shades closed over my vulnerable sensibilities, and can't always ignore the lump in my throat --sometimes it's happiness, sometimes heartache. and over the years i've decided it's not necessarily a bad thing. i do not turn away from strong feelings, i've learned to take them and mine their depths for meaning and insight. and sometimes, the feeling turns into a beacon, that upon further exploration brings me to a place where i find a poem, a story, or even the beginnings of something more, a new understanding of what it means to be human in this century, on this earth.

a recent story told to me by a myspace friend resulted in this very thing. you know, we are an extremely cerebral, emotional, and tactile culture, and yet we move at the speed of light. we want everything we experience to have meaning. when we find something that speaks to us, someone or even a character in a book or television show, we make it a part of ourselves. it is part of how we grow into who we are meant to be, whoever that is. we take ownership of that and cultivate it like a relationship. and because of the depths to which technology can take us, it is even possible to reach out and claim for a brief span of time --a breath in the wilderness of our emotions --an affirmation that another person shares our thoughts, our opinions, our feelings, our triumphs and even our worries. it is possible to know someone almost better than our own families by typing back and forth over a keyboard. i myself have cultivated friendships this way, i can vouch for the fact that they can be profound, indeed. it is possible to put your heart out there, talk about your very deepest hopes, wishes, whatever, and never even know the last name of the person to whom you are speaking. it's not wierd, it's not detrimental, and it's not dishonest. in the past, because these feelings were never explored in a safe or positive way, many people became addicted to drugs, sank into depression, abused alcohol, or worse.

today, we can do something really fine: we can keep our masks over our identities, and yet put certain things out there for the world to see. we experience something i call "hiding in plain sight." only the important stuff remains hidden, so that the other important stuff might be shared, and hopefully understood by someone else. and hey, sometimes we learn something glorious and wonderful this way. so don't knock it. let it stand on its own. be respectful of the mystery. it's important.

but to continue with my reaction to the story recently told me by my friend: if the person on the other end happens to be well-known, a person hounded by fans and paparazzi because of his or her line of work, what can happen? are those people able to get the same satisfaction and life-affirming confirmation of a shared, somewhat anonymous online friendship? sometimes. but it's dangerous. by the very nature of their work, which involves imagination, fantasy, and belief in something larger than life, by being accessible they are more likely to be the targets of obsession. which makes the fact of any shared experience like this that much more valuable.

after hearing the story of one such relationship that had to end when fans became scary, i was moved to write something. you can read it here. i'll keep the identity and situation secret for what i hope are obvious reasons. it's the feeling and validation that i believe are important.

that, and i hope perhaps someone out there may learn a lesson, and realize that famous people ARE people. not objects there for your possession. they're not perfect or insensible, any more than you or i. so be respectful. have some class.

evolve, damnit.

the poem is called, "hiding in plain sight" and is, or will be, up on my website in a day or two. you can find it under the poetry page.


Anonymous said...

Thank You!

susannaheanes said...

you are so welcome.

Anonymous said...

Good work on that last piece you wrote for your blog.... And the poem is interesting. I think this stuff marks something of a mature
transition for you. The conversational style of that poem is what stands out; there's no poetic conceit here, just raw monologue.
Let's hear the response, if indeed there is one! This is a fine
representation of the blogging culture, both in form and intent, the psychology of intimate anonymity and the price of fame. I know you're talking here about someone who is truly well known for their work and who can never really achieve intimacy with this incorporeal being on the other end. But I'm wondering if the theme could be expanded to
represent the general milieu of the blogging culture. Remember the
Warhol prediction about a future in which everyone achieves 15 minutes of fame. There is a strong argument that we have tumbled headlong into an era where fame is cheap, often bought at the price of a fast computer and a DSL connection; or a good helping of steroids, or by chanting a few lines of doggerel verse filled with enough misogyny to wake the dead, or simply by going on line and doing something one thinks is original... however trite and pathetic it may be as a statement of need and loneliness. Look here. Look at me!! You have seen these people on line... The technology has revealed just how disconnected people have become in the real world. So they go on TV or online to either sell themselves or berate the other guy
for having a different belief system. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a naysayer when it comes to the wonders of this new form. You describe beautifully how useful and almost cathartic such mystical connections can be with people you probably will never meet. You're right about the level of intimacy you can achieve in cyberspace.

But there's a lot of craziness and stupidity out there too. It's in
the real world, of course; but with the computer it's all just a
couple of keystrokes away. There was a time when you had to work a
little to uncover such drivel. It was always there. We just have
ready access to so much now... you have to hack your way through a
jungle of intellectual hacks to find a lovely wheat field...

Of course, you could always conclude that my comments fall into the
chaff group.