for whatever reason, mid-stride this morning it would seem, I remembered “Smilla’s Sense of Snow.” A good film and a better book.
“When my mother didn’t come back I realized that any moment could be the last. Nothing in life should simply be a passage from one place to another. Each walk should be taken as if it is the only thing you have left. You can demand something like this of yourself as an unattainable ideal. After that, you have to remind yourself about it every time you’re sloppy about something. For me that means 250 times a day.” – Peter Høeg (Smilla’s Sense of Snow)
The idea of having unattainable goals that you strive to attain, I think, is becoming something that I am beginning to understand better. It is more than the “dream the impossible dream” kind of thing, or the understanding that we truly do not know the extent of our limits (because we have not lived our complete lives yet) so better to assume that we can do more then to draw a line based on what little we know now.
It is about the reality that living and being in life requires one to embrace an almost complete lack of surety without losing your capacity to act and do as if everything was written in stone. The old paraphrased adage about “do all things with the belief that you are absolutely right but never lose sight of the knowledge that you may be wrong.”
The sort of…oh what’s the word? Conflict? Contradictory states of living completely in the present, as if this moment is all that you have and yet, also living as if time will stretch ahead of you, yet also, knowing it will come to an end at some undetermined point – which could be the very next second. It is almost like a mobius strip of thought and the only constancy within the three is the fact that one must be.
be in life
be in love
be in suffering
be in health
be in joy
be in solitude
be in company
If one is in a state of “being” one is not in a state of passivity, holding one’s breath as it were and wanting to be so absorbed into the world that your life is not even noticed. ‘Being’ means you are separate, but integral to the whole and as the whole is to you.
Last night, in the workshop I was covering character development and was talking about the importance of understanding where the characters state of consciousness was in order to understand and make their motivations and actions believable.
There are two forms of consciousness, the immature and mature. The immature is the conscious that is only aware of or involved in (in the sense of compassion, sympathy, recognition etc) things that can be imaginatively applied as effecting themselves, the people they know, or the people they understand because they share similar likes, desires, cultures, traits etc. Their sense of…indignation and what is right and wrong is rooted in this connectedness to imaging the hurt as applied to themselves or someone they perceive as being part of their group or the perception of the validation and approval they will receive from “their world” for compassion expressed for those without. It is considered a pathogenic consciousness, neurotic and expresses itself through destructive creativity. Sociologically, 65% of the industrialized world’s population are considered to exist in this state. It is the reason why consumerism and marketing (of the kind we are all so familiar with) is so successful despite our conscious knowledge of its pandering to vanity and manipulative efforts towards our self-esteem. This “immature consciousness” is also termed the “personal consciousness” and is characterized by a lack of valid empathy and has a framework based in group ethics.
The “mature consciousness” is one that is governed by a sense of connection to what is beyond the scope of the person’s world, influence and impact and which has no direct impact on them nor grants them any value or validity within their social groups. It contains no worth as “social currency.” This “mature consciousness” is also termed the “social consciousness” and is characterized by empathy. The governing characteristics of this consciousness is a lack of qualifying markers for persons to be included or considered in this individuals concept of just and unjust. There is simply what is just and unjust applied to all which comes from a supported framework of universal morality. Again, in the industrialized world, the diagnoses is that only about 35% of persons achieve this kind of consciousness.
As the writer or narrator of a story, one has to develop the ability to show the “social consciousness” in order for the characters to successfully drive the story with tension. Otherwise, its a story aimed at a niche market which is all well and good and will sell, but if you want to create something with universal appeal you must learn to have a universal consciousness in order to place the story within a framework that is accessible to all.
I love teaching this workshop.
c.2010. Cassandra Tribe. All Rights Reserved.