I came across this XKCD comic strip tonight via my friend Lieven. It’s interesting to me on several levels. As a kid, I found cameras an ever-present and highly intrusive feature of family gatherings. At every holiday, the kids were stalked by one or more well-meaning relatives intent on capturing the moment. I can tell you that there is no quicker way of ruining the childhood joy of opening presents on Christmas Day than having some relative sit you in a chair, hand you a present, and tell you to open it while they point a video camera at you to “capture the moment”. As a kid, I visited the Grand Canyon with my family, and remember that one of the first things they did on arrival was have the family line up in front of the Grand Canyon for photos. I didn’t want to star in photos of me at the Grand Canyon; I wanted to savor the amazing vista. I felt my parents were so intent on documenting my life that I couldn’t actually live it. As a result, I became mortally allergic to cameras as soon as I left home. For nearly a decade post-graduation, I made sure there were as few photos of me as I could possibly manage.
At the same time, though, I was viewing the world through my own photographic lens. I had taken a writing skills class at a gifted/talented summer program when I was twelve, and was immediately hooked on writing. I wrote long, narrative letters to my best friend, and to anyone else who would read them. I kept a journal where I recorded my thoughts about everything I encountered. Whenever I experienced something, I would think about how I was going to write it up and explain it to my best friend (or whoever I was writing to that day). My internal monologues were always to someone else, explaining what I was thinking and feeling. It was like constantly carrying around a video camera – one made of words – to shoot, edit, and publish whatever was happening to me.
This probably sounds wildly dissociative to most of you, the sort of thing that would ruin the most intimate moments of discovery and wonder. But I’ve never experienced it that way. For me, that internal monologue, that internal all-seeing camera, helps me see and feel things more deeply. It makes me ponder more deeply about the things I believe, and taste more keenly the things I enjoy, because I am always sharing it with someone. It lets me take my deepest moments and gift them to others.
Of course I don’t publish everything; nobody really wants to know what I had for breakfast, unless it was interesting and unusual. And some moments I choose not to publish, either because I decide to keep them private, or because they involve the privacy of others. But that internal monologue is always running. I’m always talking to an audience, sharing my experience with others. Sometimes it’s a close friend; there is nothing more intimate (in my mind) than carrying someone else in your head for awhile. But often it’s you – my blog readers. Sharing what I see is, for me, an essential part of seeing it.
So if you’ve ever wondered why I blog, that’s it – it’s essential to my way of seeing things, the way I deepen my experience of the world. I wonder sometimes how other people experience the world – whether they carry on the same monologue, but never share it with others (that seems like hell to me), or whether it finds outlet in other creative work. I wonder how people who do not create experience life – people who spend their days watching TV, or going to movies or reading books or any of the myriad other things that people do. Perfectly valid things to do, perfectly valid lives – but ones so different from my own as to be barely comprehensible. As I’m sure my life, seen through the constant lens of a verbal camera, must seem incomprehensible to others. I often wonder about this, and perhaps I’ll never know.
So I am curious, gentle reader: how do you experience the world? Do you carry on your own monologue, tote your own internal video camera? If not, how do you experience and think about the things you see and feel? Tell me all; I’d love to know.