Why I left Facebook…

So I have decided to deactivate my Facebook account. It is slightly depressing, because I have a huge Facebook addiction, one of the reasons I must expel it from my life, and I will miss it deeply, but alas, the time has come.

There are a number of reasons I want to do this and I think my exploration into empathetic narratives has fuelled my aspiration to be Facebook free.

Recently a friend of mine (check out his blog on dumpster diving here) suggested I read a short story called The Machine Stops (it is online in full) by E.M. Forster (1909), and I did, and it moved me beyond words, both in the way it was written and in it’s subject matter.

The Machine Stops explores a world where humans no longer live on the surface of the earth, they have gone underground, isolated in individual ‘rooms’, serviced by the ‘Machine’. Every thing is artificial, every thing is detached from humanity and human connection. Interactions are fast flowing through the ‘Machine’, individuals communicate with 1000’s of ‘friends’ through technology, but “the Machine did not transmit nuances of expression… the imponderable bloom, declared by a discredited philosophy to be the actual essence of intercourse was ignored by the Machine, just as the imponderable bloom of the grape was ignored by the manufacturers of the artificial fruit… something “good enough” had long since been accepted by our race” (Forster, 1909).

This is what triggered my initial pulse of “I don’t want to lose connection with humanity”, that blood pumping connection with what I love, what holds me to people, that “imponderable bloom”, that rosy flare of heart strings pulled by mechanisms all things unexplainably beautiful and human! I don’t want to be accepting superficial “good enough” connectivity.

E.M Forster shares the story of an interaction between a mother, Vashti, and her son, Kuno. They are in their separate ‘bubbles’, one in the Northern Hemisphere and the other in the Southern Hemisphere. The story begins with Kuno wanting his mother to visit him. But Vashti feels no need to leave her ‘bubble’, she feels it is a waste of time and that they can connect “good enough” through the ‘Machine”. Eventually she does visit him, and finds he has visited the surface of the world… I don’t want to say too much more, because I feel you should all read it. An hour is all you need, for it is only 25 pages. 25 pages of words woven beautifully.

An internal discourse has lead me to feel I am frustrated by the lack of meaningful ‘feeling’ connections. I long for dialogue that excites my neuronal firing, that triggers memories, interaction that is evocative and emotive. Maybe I feel a disconnection from a love life, maybe I have been too caught up in study and poetry and performance, but I feel it is that I am too caught up in a world where external stimulation guides us too quickly through life’s course. I feel I am being sucked into the void of Facebook and while I used it to try to connect and reach out, share my passions and yearned for a ‘like’, that connection and ‘like’ buttons clicked, hasn’t been enough. I shared on Facebook things that excite me, things I am passionate about, things that trigger in me human responses and I wanted to trigger those things in other people. And maybe I did. But what was lacking was the mutual dialogue, debate, discussion. The face to face, watching some one blush with excitement, or frown with discontent, or nostril flare with anger. I want to see the tears that swell in peoples eyes, I want to hear peoples joy in the heightened pitch of their utterance. I want to touch, enjoy the warmth of flesh and that delight in the tactility of my finger tips.

This is why I have left Facebook. This is why I want to return to my humanity.

I want to leave you, with some of the quotes from The Machine Stops that truly moved me.

“Man is the measure. That was my first lesson. Man’s feet are the measure for distance, his hands are the measure for ownership, his body is the measure for all that is loveable and desirable and strong.”

“But I had got back the sense of space and a man cannot rest then.”

“I felt, for the first time, that a protest had been lodged against corruption, and that even as the dead were comforting me, so I was comforting the unborn. I felt that humanity existed, and that it existed without clothes. How can I possibly explain this? It was naked, humanity seemed naked, and all these tubes and buttons and machineries neither came into the world with us, nor will they follow us out, nor do they matter supremely while we are here.”

“Cannot you see, cannot all you lecturers see, that it is we that are dying, and that down here the only thing that really lives is the Machine? We created the Machine, to do our will, but we cannot make it do our will now. It has robbed us of the sense of space and of the sense of touch, it has blurred every human relation and narrowed down love to a carnal act, it has paralysed our bodies and our wills, and now it compels us to worship it. The Machine develops – but not on our lines. The machine proceeds – but not to our goal. We only exist as the blood corpuscles that course through its arteries, and if it could work without us, it would let us die.”

Much love humanity, I will see you in person.

Jessie Giles

echotango lead me to capturing gratitude

You know those moments when you connect with some one who is travelling along a parallel path, going a similar direction, but just a bit further along, and
you go “ahhh yeah!! every thing is going the way it should be”. Moments when you realise the intersection of all your varied skills can work together and
you can look at all the possibilities of applying them in your life. These moments seem to be flying at me recently. Some times a little too quickly, where
I am needing to drop other things to grab them, or chase after some that are hurtling along too fast for me to seize.

One of these moment brought me in contact with Alex Kelly, an artist, producer, film maker, activist, and general all round awesome person, with a passion
that is contagious. Kelly has this great blog echotango, which explores social change, arts, impact producing, activism,
social change film, social justice, story based strategies, and much much much more really exciting and informative musings…

Alex is the National Producer of Big hART.

Any way, she introduced me (through her awesome blog) to Lauren Tober, a clinical psychologist (yay!), mindfulness yoga teacher and photographer. Lauren has this project called capturing gratitude, a global happiness project, exploring gratitude through photography. During the month of February people will be posting daily photos of gratitude, encouraging and facilitating their own gratitude practice. Get involved via her website!

There is some thing so beautiful about how an image and the stories that hold it, envelop it and are activated through its consideration. How an image can hold you captivated and allow gentle (or confronting) questioning. The internal and external narration that travels with an image.

 

Yes, stories, I love you.

Museum of the Long Weekend

As you already know, if you read my first blog post about Big hART, I am a big fan of this arts and social change organisation. Last night, during my midnight cognitive dialogue, I read some really beautiful blog posts from the Museum of the Long Weekend (MOTLW).

MOTLW is a Big hART project, as part of the Centenary of Canberra’s celebratory weekend SPIN, looking at the psychology of leisure, Australia’s recreational history, through an ephemeral museum on wheels. 40+ Vintage Caravans will be converging on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, Canberra, next weekend the 18th-20th October.

It’s exciting, I get to go up as part of my internship. And I have been following the vans (travelling along three convoy routes) as they journey across the continent, with much yearning and desire to buy myself a beautiful vintage caravan, or a bus, or just a general car, and pack up all my belongs, hit the road and share stories and narratives with people in caravan parks, road stops and beautiful sandy white beaches (preferably north of the cold Australian weather).

These blog updates, especially the ones shared by Elspeth, are beautifully crafted short stories of time on the road, those moments we go through, of introspection, outrospection, processing, connecting, building, gaining, losing, learning.

Last night as I read these, I thought of how beautiful it is to see people share so openly and vulnerably (courageously) and how much taking in these stories stirs so many feelings and emotions, so many sensations.

Thats what I am passionate about.

Check out the blog here. And please share with me what you think. Lets engage in a mutual narrative of sharing.

ACT

I am suppose to be studying for my exams in a couple of weeks, or getting to bed early so I am fresh to brave the RMIT Uni striking staff picket lines tomorrow morning, to get my final, last, psychology lab report into the submission box on time… but instead I am thinking of all the things in my life that are causing my internal dialogue to fire and chatter away quickly.

So rather than try to push it all away and ‘get on with what needs doing’, I thought I would just share it all with you.

ACT!

I am reading an article at the moment on ‘Acceptance and Commitment Therapy‘ (ACT), which is a ‘third wave’ behavioural therapy that, unlike any other psychotherapy, does not have the goal of getting rid of ‘symptoms’, but to “create a rich and meaningful life, while accepting the pain that inevitably goes with it” (Harris, 2006). This may confuse people a little, in that ‘why would I want to accept pain and discomfort?’ sort of way. But it makes so much sense to me, and the theory/therapy fits in nicely with my ’empathy cultivating, creative narrative, uncomfortable dialogues’ theme… The article talks about the root of psychological suffering stemming from human language its self. It looks at the idea of a public and private language. How our private language (the language that we use to talk to ourselves, plan, visualise, analyse, etc) is our cognition and that this internal dialogue or narrative (see!!) is a double edged sword. On the nice side of the sword, it provides us with all this really awesome stuff, like learning, and creating, and planning, and making models of the world. While on the dark and dangerous side, it has us lie, manipulate, be ignorant, we use it to scare ourselves… and even worse… we use it to destroy ourselves.

So sure, its all pretty heavy duty, but not really. Basically what ACT does is look at how we can develop skills to either problem solve our ‘issues’ or the dark side of the sword, or develop acceptance that this shit happens and that some times it is out of our control. And then it helps us to commit and ACT toward living a valued life…

Maybe I have lost you… and maybe I am too tired and should just get my beauty sleep… BUT I want to say this… maybe if we can begin to feel safely uncomfortable of our own ‘symptoms’, then we will be more readily able to feel safely uncomfortable by other peoples ‘symptoms’ and gain strength and resilience and understanding and empathetically grow!!

Just a thought, at 12:44AM.

(There are more things chiming in my brain that I wish to share… but maybe I will post it all separately, so if you have become bored of this post, you won’t miss out on the other exciting stuff – trust me, it is exciting!!)

Blame… where does it lie

Radiolab is one of my favourite podcasts (along with a few others that I will post soon)… Not only do they provide awesome science made easy to understand, but explore the narratives of human nature, human existence, the underlying basis of humanity…

This episode, Blame, addresses, in 3 beautifully crafted and moving stories, the idea of blame, the idea of framing blame, how we can look at blame, moving through blame and the idea of unconditional positive regard, looking at behaviours from an empathetic understanding.

The first story Fault Line, looks at neuroscience, deviant behaviour and the criminal justice system, free will, choice, and accountability.

Forget about Blame? looks at the area of NeuroLaw, and the increased use of neuroscience to argue individuals are not always to blame for criminal behaviour, but rather neurological dysfunction…

My favourite story, Dear Hector, is an amazing story of unconditional positive regard, empathy, acceptance, and forgiveness that is almost impossible to comprehend. Empathy at its finest. The narrative is crafted beautifully. (I must warn that it is a confronting story, that will move you, but thats what empathy is all about right?!)

The Power of Outrospection

This amazing RSA Animation of Roman Krznaric’s talk on ‘Outrospection’… empathy as an art of living, social change, revolution…

Krznaric not only provide beautiful definitions of empathy, but also explains how we can nurture our curiosity and look at empathetic adventuring. How we can step into the shoes of another and experience their world view, their beliefs, their understanding… and from their make informed changes in our assumptions, allow ourselves to open up and become vulnerable and courages.

Check out more of Roman Krznaric at his empathy blog:

http://www.romankrznaric.com/empathy

Big hART

I have been privileged to do my uni internship with Big hART, an amazing arts and social change organisation, based throughout many towns and cities across Australia.

The company brings together communities and artists on projects that aim to empower positive social and individual change through the arts. The company places the greatest importance on both the process and trajectory with the community, as well as on the quality of the art. Big hART projects tackle a wide range of issues, engaging with the complex challenges of life for many of Australia’s most marginalised and disengaged communities. The company believes that complex problems require multi-layered solutions. Often, they find issues within communities are shown as narratives of despair with no way out. Big hART helps communities change the story.

The Big hART model works using a multi-layered approach and generally work with a number of communities across a number of projects.

The model includes:

1.             A non-welfare arts-based community cultural development project, providing a range of workshops and mentoring for participants, creating the opportunity to reconsider questions of around identity and social trajectory

2.             A high-quality art outcome based on the stories of the participants and the community

3.             Ongoing social policy engagement, through the art, and that relates to stories from the community in focus

4.             Engagement with the ‘national narrative’ on social issues – looking to shift narratives by reaching diverse audiences and high profile media using the power of story

It has been a fantastic experience to watch the Big hART process unfold and see the many layers of the companies process.