I have some ideas about the “Universal Experience”

Child-of-the-Universe-Josephine-WallYou know when I got up this morning I didn’t exactly get up to write. I got up to jump rope, but I thought about writing. I’ve thought about writing every single day of this week [of the last few months to be precise], and I’ve done nothing about it. I feel like I have too much to say, and I have too many words to put down. There’s too much meaning attached to the words I want to use, and I don’t really feel like explaining what I mean. [Of course I could stand to be corrected, we all can, but the thought of justifying and or defending my word choices—given the limitations of my current frame of mind— just feels like burdensome work to me. Work that I'm unwilling to engage with because sometimes critics just want to see you spin without adding anything productive to the conversation].

 

And so I must ask: Of what use is *my* meaning to the words that you read from me? And will they ever be enough for you, the person who wants me to mean what YOU think I mean. My words are mere subjective signifiers of things that are happening from my perspective, from my vantage point, through my eyes; in the world WE live in. We seem to have gotten caught up in this Universal Experience narrative that simultaneously strokes our ego, seductively draws us in, and then brutally spits us out.

 

We seem to want desperately to find that line in the contract of our minds whereby having once experienced something individually we want to quote and confirm with authority what it feels like for everyone else to have experienced that thing. And yet once we experience something individually, it automatically ceases to be “universal” since it’s happening from our unique position, through us. Why are we loathe so to give one another the opportunity to experience the universal experience their way? We seem to want to tell other people that what they are experiencing in their own lives isn’t being experienced correctly. As if we can control them; as if we know how they should be experiencing their lives. This is an attractive and dangerous supposition to make because we can never ever fully know a person. “Why don’t you just…” we say. “If only you could…” we suggest, knowing full-well that we can never walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.

 

The irony being of course that we feel as if we have a right to question and analyze and mine that experience and that expression. As if the story reflected back to the reader means that the writer is more than, which means that the reader must somehow be less than. Or vice versa. But writers don’t have all the answers. The good ones will shape a story so that a reader will feel or find something compelling beyond the words on the page. This he exchange will present an opportunity for the reader to reflect on how the author’s situation [or the characters in the author's work] does or doesn’t impact her life or the life of her readers. It’s why some of us find some readers more or less engaging or relatable than others.

 

Why do we find it so hard to allow people to live their own lives? And why are the lives of others so much more attractive than ours?

 

I’ll tell you why. And the start of it begins with the notion that in order to be considered worthy of opinion and worthwhile of consideration, we must demonstrate that we can participate in group feelings. For example, when the world is attuned to a particular outrage in the culture, we too must sidle up to that outrage and make it ours. That the constant loop of the world’s feelings about what the group hates must also be what I too hate. This is what opinion culture has wrought. Lots of us fall into the pattern of chirping our outrage to the already outraged. We are mad about this says the Chief Officer of Being Outraged, and the minions follow suit. A similar pack mentality happens with things that we are supposed to find attractive. For example, according to the arbiters of taste there is a “right” way to like something—the word that has found exceedingly popular use in the lexicon is “obsess,” which as we all know signifies an unhealthy, often destructive desire for something. We even now have women spearheading an homage to materialism, bragging about shit they “covet.” These professional shoppers of expensive corporate things peep into The Attractive Ones closet and ask the subject “What They Can’t Live Without.” Curiously none of the subjects ever says health or breath, or you know Life itself. But that’s by design, isn’t it. ? Why talk about health and wellness when you can covet a $4000 handbag?

 

Ah, but it doesn’t end there. The socially outraged amongst us will test your mettle and swiftly judge your ass should you not sufficiently mourn and/or bemoan the social injustice of the day. They will tell you what is appropriate and inappropriate as if those extremes don’t each have a place in the culture. That the opposite of what the ideal is has no right to exist alongside it’s more seemingly virtuous and comely counterpart.

 

I mostly give a shit about what people think. And sometimes other people’s thoughts and ideas overwhelm me. I absorb them, and I swallow them like the breath of a drowning person. Not every word, mind you, but the words that count. I feel emotion deeply, I sense the pain of others quite deeply. If I determine that that pain is coming from a place of helplessness, or anguish or loneliness, I’m even more apt to want to try to listen and help. I don’t want to *fix* anyone, but I want to know what I can do to help. Sometimes I have to back away knowing that perhaps it’s best to let someone heal on their own or find more appropriate resources, but I remain open to do whatever it is that I can. I think about people a lot. I think about the souls that I`ve connected with, and I often feel like having once made that connection, that we aren’t ever done. It doesn’t mean that I have a hard time of letting go, quite the opposite. It means that I won’t abandon you.

 





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