[Previosuly on TTC: People determine other people’s lives by observing them. We’re all in this together, shaping each other’s lives by interacting and forming opinions, memories and ideas, both consciously and unconsciously, to each our own and all together.]
The Looking Glass Self theory centers on the influence people have on each other. On the way one’s observations shape another’s life in direct or roundabout ways, always tangible. Through it, person X can understand who he is by gaging how others see him, how they understand him to begin with.
This, of course, poses a conundrum. The theory assumes that others have the final say in X’s life, your life, any life. That they influence you a great deal. That you’re not the prime creator of your own destiny, or the product of your own choices. That others have great influence over you.
And vice versa. You have great influence over other people’s lives.
In other words, no one is in direct control of his or her own life. We’re all subject to the whims of others. To their understanding of us.
This seems to agree with the claims of the wise, esoteric texts of our history, our literature and science and general lore. We’re all in this together, part of an interconnected, interdependent dynamic. No person’s an island, butterfly effect, judge not lest ye be judged yourself, intelligent feedback loops, it’s all happening through the power of humans observing one another. But it’s an unsettling insight. The power bestowed on ‘the other’ is immense.
Never was this phenomenon as clear to me as it was when I came back from the BTM set. I was away for seven weeks, in NY, on a movie set, shooting a script I wrote, living in an alternate universe of by-and-large my own making, parts of which I was in complete control of, parts of which were beyond my grasp. I was living an exciting life within a fresh set of rules and expectations. Gone were the stereotypes and expectations associated with my normal life. This was a fresh slate, a new platform. I was in control of my course in the sense that I was unimpeded by others’ long-established opinions of myself. I could affect how others saw me afresh, based on the present and future, so that they could affect me in turn along the same lines, in ways that were in tune with what I felt at the time. In other words, I ordained my own destiny according to my present needs, not my past, making a new beginning with a new set of experiences.
As you have probably identified by now, the point is almost moot. Had I stayed in this ‘fresh’ place for seven months, or seven years, I would have eventually fallen back into the push and pull of routine — a way of life formed out of the interaction of the group of people comprising this new world I had become part of, or, dare I say, committed to. New stereotypes and impressions would start taking over, the categorical slot through which we tend to make sense of life and communicate with each other. I would in effect be as much the product of everyone else’s simplified and compacted understanding of myself as they would have been of my such understanding in turn.
But the point is that I didn’t spend seven years in this new world. I spent seven weeks. Time enough to write a short ‘script’ on a new slate without making it heavy with accumulated meaning.
This slate assumed new meaning and purpose upon my return to the UK. That’s when the memories of the old world resurfaced, to each their own, bearing with them the pain of old sediment, repacking themselves upon my freshly unburdened body to push me deeper and deeper into melancholy admonition.
See, I’m a man of opportunity, a seeker of fortune. I revel in the new and unknown parts of life. I appreciate home only in the sense that I can return to it to recharge my batteries for another go at something fresh and exciting.
I’m a hunter, not a farmer.
Watch this space for Part 10