Expression, learning, and limitations thereof

All expression seems to come from a void. Even as I type this sentence, I think I am only reiterating and fully understanding a statement from Waking Life*. One of my friends here is studying film making here, and she invited me for a film screening in a class for International Cinema appreciation. I went along for the experience. We saw The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, but that is not the point, of course.

One of the students in the class was deaf-mute. I don’t know her name yet, but she was of striking beauty and carriage. She was also noticeably dressed in clothes that she must have spent some effort designing. Interesting patchwork on her jeans, a cap with a big yellow feather sticking out of it, rather like Robin Hood. And she had turned the volume up on her make up. It was loud, but it was tasteful and fitted into the persona of a filmmaker. Bright blue eye shadow that extended way down below her eyes to her cheeks in a well designed manner. Loud rouge highlights on her cheeks. And not to mention dark outlined eyes. My first reaction was to say, wow, that’s something! My second reaction was, she must have spent a lot of time this morning getting dressed like that for class. She was colorful, and was definitely on talking terms with rainbows. And then I noticed the patchwork on her jeans. Definitely not something you would pick up in a chain store. Possibly something she designed herself or got it from someone who designed it to be special. Every cell of her being was screaming I am special, and this without a word or look exchanged between us. In a 30 second awareness of her presence, I already knew the kind of person she would be, and that I would love to hang out with her sometime.

My final thought: You turn down the volume on your trap, and the rest of your body becomes expressive. We are walking languages. Who says we need words to communicate? I believe it might not be an exercise in futility to deny oneself of talking privileges for extended periods.

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“Do I really need to know this? This isn’t going to help me!” My biggest learning barrier throughout my life, especially at my first job. What was missing was an informed and weighted cataloging system in my head. It took 5.5 years of technical writing to change that permanently. And it took the first few pages of Lila to help me identify and articulate the problem.

I think I know where it came from though. From the grade-oriented educational system we have back home. This is what it made out of me. If there was nothing to be gained from learning XYZ, I wouldn’t study XYZ. If studying AB over CD gave me more marks, I would study AB over CD. Hence, if reading 60 pages of information made me comprehensively informed, and 20 pages just enough informed to bullshit, I would do 25. I always got to second place. I never made it to first place in class. It would have taken 35 pages of studying some more. Now, given an infinite timeline, one can deliver infinite quality. Given a limited timeline, the successful person is the one who delivers satisfactory amounts of quality, faster and meets the deadline. I was great at that.

Now, taking stock, professionally, it makes me an ace. I have my bullet list of key points ready to attack a subject. Personally, it makes me shallow. I never felt strongly for anything that I didn’t read the latter 35 pages of. I don’t feel strongly about a lot of things.

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*Quote from Waking Life that I was referring to:

Creation seems to come out of imperfection. It seems to come out of a striving and a frustration. And this is where I think language came from. I mean, it came from our desire to transcend our isolation and have some sort of connection with one another. And it had to be easy when it was just simple survival. Like, you know, “water.” We came up with a sound for that. Or “Saber-toothed tiger right behind you.” We came up with a sound for that. But when it gets really interesting, I think, is when we use that same system of symbols to communicate all the abstract and intangible things that we’re experiencing. What is, like, frustration? Or what is anger or love? When I say “love,” the sound comes out of my mouth and it hits the other person’s ear, travels through this Byzantine conduit in their brain, you know, through their memories of love or lack of love, and they register what I’m saying and they say yes, they understand. But how do I know they understand? Because words are inert. They’re just symbols. They’re dead, you know? And so much of our experience is intangible. So much of what we perceive cannot be expressed. It’s unspeakable. And yet, you know, when we communicate with one another, and we feel that we’ve connected, and we think that we’re understood, I think we have a feeling of almost spiritual communion. And that feeling might be transient, but I think it’s what we live for.

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2 thoughts on “Expression, learning, and limitations thereof

  1. Thank you Arunima. May I ask which colleague sent you this ways? Just so I can place him/her in my head. I’m going to do a bit of prowling on your blog as well. 😉

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