Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hypocrisy over silence

Summer Anne Burton has a new manifesto in her series of manifestos, which she prefaces with this statement that I want to take to heart:

These little ideas and affirmations are written as Me talking to Myself, so please don't read condescension or ego into them. They are things that I am working on, not things that I'm actually telling anyone else they Should do. If you're inspired, I hope it's to come up with your own manifesto, not listen to little me.
Even though I've gotten really into blogging recently (as you can see), I still find myself holding back on certain things, including anything that might seem to be giving advice or stating a moral principle. Back when I was studying acting, I remember working on one scene and being told: "Your third eye is going wild, John. Try it again — turn off your third eye." And you were right, Rebecca.

Your third eye is that meddlesome little critic in your head who watches you and second-guesses every little thing before you're about to do it. Sometimes this can be useful, but more often it's about as productive in helping me live my life as Hillary Clinton's continued presidential campaign is in helping the Democrats win the White House. I don't care if you have a valid point or not — you're just getting in the way of getting stuff done, so please go away!

See, I want to use the blog to articulate my thoughts on how to live life . . . but then my third eye is saying, "Who are you to say how to live life? Do you really have enough experience to tell people what to do?" I want to talk about ethical issues, but the third eye will say, "Are you really the best person to pronounce on ethics? Are you living such an ethical life yourself?"

Of course, this is ridiculous, so I need to give myself permission to just forget about all that. If you limited the pool of people you were willing to listen to for advice to those who do everything right all the time, or if you only listened to thoughts on ethical issues from those who are morally pure (which I'm sure is the unwavering practice of those critics of Al Gore who are outraged that he doesn't take every conceivable measure in his personal life to reduce global warming) . . . then you wouldn't be exposing yourself to very much thought.

Back to Summer's manifestos — I mentioned in my first post that I was inspired by what she said about being open and honest, assertive and direct. That passing reference didn't do it justice, so here's some more for you:

Start by telling everyone about your manifesto and don't bother with a long disclaimer. Your honesty will inspire others to do the same and put everyone's intentions and feelings on the table, all the time. Ask for what you want instead of taking what you get. The answer might be "yes," and if it isn't you're better off knowing now. Get used to talking without trying to make people laugh. . . .

Admit your mistakes and request that others apologize for theirs. Don't confuse honesty with being self-effacing or embarrassing yourself -- honesty includes all of the good things as well as the bad ones. . . .

Don't confuse simple, reasonable honesty with radical silliness. There is no reason to try to articulate blurry feelings or over-explain every detail. The point is to be honest instead of internalizing, not to try to extract juicy confessionals out of everyday life. And remember: saying something out loud can sometimes make it true, rather than the other way around. Proceed cautiously, but let. it. out.

(Closeup eye photo by Charloto. Self-portrait with umbrella by Summer Anne Burton.)


Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

An inspiring piece, John -- and Summer. Thanks.

Ann Althouse said...

Nice post.

Love the pics.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Isn't that top photo a fish eye? Quite the satirical dart.

summer anne burton said...

<3. Thanks for this, it makes me really happy that you not only cared for the original posts but that you understood what I was trying to say in my little disclaimer on the newest one. It worries me because the entire manifesto writing project was meant to act as a motivator for Me to get Better, but I'm constantly afraid that people will interpret it as me telling Them to get Better (and therefore implying that I already am...). Uh, I think this is becoming less and less well-articulated the more I write. Anyway, thanks. Lots.

Trooper York said...

You are one serious dude, dude.