Monday, June 20, 2011

I Sleep When I Breathe

No doubt partly because the only board-games we had growing up were Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble, Chess and Boggle (none of which were new) and partly because TV was never a permanent fixture in our house (and the times when it was there, it was ruled by our father), my sisters and I are all very concerned ("nay, obsessed") with words. We read and write and talk and talk, and do our best to say exactly what we mean in the exact way we mean it. Two of us often use words for evil, one mostly for amusement, but all to try to describe and own, or at least contain, our worlds.

I've often felt like the whole point of life is finding someone, or if you're really lucky: someones, who can understand your language and maybe speak it, and even if they can't, maybe you will understand theirs. You go around saying things like you're waving a green flag in a world where everybody is colourblind, hoping that one day someone will be able to see it, and then finally you'll know that your experience isn't completely unique, and that you can share it; most importantly, you can know that you're not alone.

I think that's what art is, and it's what language is to me, and to my sisters. We kind of have our own language, some from shared experience and then shared tastes that come from that, but also because even though we are very different people, words are ours. Some of our loneliest times have been when we haven't been able to talk; I remember really missing my sister once when we were actually on holiday together, but having another person there meant we didn't get any time to talk properly and it felt like she was miles away from me. If I don't speak to her, sometimes I can forget how I feel about things... When I am with my sisters, I think I remember who I am supposed to be, and it's partly in relation to who they are. I thought for a long time that people who couldn't use words the way we do were stupid; now I know there are a million ways to communicate and that words are only one, and the way they can be used changes their 'language' completely. We were just lucky to have each other, right there in the same grapefruit tree.

Schopenhauer talked about art being a way to see things how really are. I liked that, especially because I love music and books. But I don't know that I completely agree with him anymore. I think the way to see how things really are is to know how they affect us. Art has the power to connect people in feeling, and that is how we see how things are. A religious friend of mine was telling me about a friend of his who was complaining that god isn't here helping us, even though we clearly need help, and my friend said god is only here as much as we are; if there is no-one to believe then there is no god. I thought about how I enjoy beautiful things but only as much as they are meaningful to me, and that my most prized possessions have always been those with sentimental value. When my sister was also studying philosophy, we agreed that we preferred that which we could apply to make our and others' lives better (and our favourite Malcolm Gladwell book is Outliers because we thought it was the most useful). Do you know what I'm trying to say? I'm not sure I do, but these ideas all seem to come out together as if I know them to be connected.

I don't know how to end this when there isn't really an end, so I'll tell you about a dear friend of mine who is not a word person. We were arguing, and he said I was a work of art.

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