Open and Vulnerable

During the recording of the latest (as of writing) unreleased episode of Too I argued a great many things from an uncomfortable vantage. My confidence in the claims that I made during that recording are quite low, actually I would be surprised if anyone found them plausible, let alone convincing.

I was all over the place. Trains of thought veered wildly into all sorts of directions, each hardly related to what I had said before. I peppered in an extreme number of qualifiers, stipulations and apologies. (The last one I don't remember so many of, but it isn't outside of my character to apologize for things I never did, so it seems proper to do so now, sorry.) I was plainly unsure of myself and I think that will probably surface in the recording.

With all that said, I am not ashamed of my poor performance. Unlike a blog post, this blog post even, there is no cover when speaking live. While so much emotion can be poured behind the blinking cursor of a text editor, we all benefit from the safety of distancing. My keyboard and screen transform from mere instruments in the creative process into thin shields inside the dialogue between myself and whomever has the misfortune of having to read my work. Moreover, editing what I write gives me the opportunity to catch incoherent thoughts, poor arguments and the occasional whine (not that I always do catch these faults, rather that I simply could if I was sharp enough.)

Again, none of this is to fault writing. Creativity as an act necessarily requires opening yourself to the world and being made vulnerable. Writing is just as creative an act, perhaps more so, than speaking, but as I just mentioned above, there are some ways to distance yourself from your voice.

When I spoke to my dear friend Ryan over (the hideously evil) Skype last week I had no where to hide from the eventual listener.[1] The sound you hear during the course of an episode is something I have said. There is a direct correlation between who I am and the half-baked ideas that exited my body into my microphone. You are the anonymous witness to that fact.

What makes the vulnerability all too real is the fact that those ideas are so nonsensical, half-baked, or simply awful, because I was working through them as you heard me. As a rule I try not to wear my existential doubt on my sleeve but whenever I speak in safe company there it is. I cannot help but bleed indecision and doubt. I am merely a single, limited, petty and scared human being (the “human being” part is relatively debatable), and all I want is something concrete to stand on. I think that rings true when I find an opportunity to let out my angst.[2]

I've been reading quite a bit about identity formation and some of the most interesting interpretations of the process surround the interplay between language and emotion. Not to be overly technical this particular theory argues that emotion contributes significantly to experience, therefore, to identity but emotions are shaped through language. Moreover, language is a completely social phenomena (unless you have an entirely private language, which makes poor old Wittgenstein sad) and the rules that govern its use are settled by power struggles within a society (however you choose to define one).

The reason I mention this theory here is that all of the fear and discomfort I exhibit while recording is another conversation in itself. It is a conversation that you at home partake in when you hear it. As social animals we define rules for appropriateness, courtesy, proper speech, etc., and in doing so we each “know” when we should be excited, afraid, or ashamed. When I open up to the world and make myself vulnerable the feelings that arise from my endeavors paint a portrait of who I am in that moment and close certain possibilities in my near future. Each of our conversations add to an implicate pool of experience that guides the journey.

What's neat about this interaction is that without even meeting you, learning your name, or complimenting your hairstyle I am providing experiential data that shapes your identity as well. In fact identity grows on multiple planes, together we become something entirely different than whatever we are alone. All of this from merely “seeing” one another.

That is the sole reason I wanted to write about my experience or help produce our little podcast. Connecting with others, even in subtle ways, helps us all grow in different capacities.

To those who feel this thought experiment is entirely out of touch, I can sympathize. I'm just as confused about this argument as you are. The only way I find any sort of peace of mind is in the pragmatist wisdom, notably W. James, that if the argument in question has no bearing on the world in front of you, e.g. Like belief/disbelief in God; cannot be proven satisfactorily one way or another, then believe whatever you will and go on about your day.

  1. One could validly argue that the editing of this episode could provide a distancing mechanism. In my defense, I have nothing to do with editing; it is yet another piece of the puzzle is situated squarely outside of my direct control. Besides, Ryan taking on the duty of editing is a total act of charity and who am I to take aim at his hard work just because I am insecure now and then? ↩︎

  2. By the way have you listened to my podcast? Hopefully you actually didn't read any of the above or below and subscribe unwittingly in a podcast client that will never let you unsubscribe and plays episodes on repeat; brought to you by the same people who are behind Skype. ↩︎


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This is the weblog of the strangely disembodied TRST. Here it attempts to write somewhat intelligibly on, well, anything really. Overall, it may be less than enticing.