(Bautista, a piece entitled 2wo, 2014)
“If you live for the approval of others, you will die by their rejection”-Pastor Rick Warren
“As long as you have breath, somebody needs what you have”-Pastor Joel Osteen
I am stepping back in time again because every year on this day I try to reflect on the past so I may make changes and move closer towards my rightful self. The piece I reflect on originates from 10 years ago while putting my thesis together.
All of my life, I knew that in solitude, I am the most powerful yet when I say this proudly, I realize this trait is what makes me most misunderstood. I knew as a child to take time and seek solitude to replenish the depleted energy from constant interaction – with family, with friends, with strangers, with teachers, with the world. But something happened along the way when I began to doubt the normalcy of such behaviour and so, I turned my back on such practice.
I unlearned self-kindness and learned self-doubt.
I struggled with this for many years but no more. I will not forsake what makes me most powerful because when I am full of power, I am able to provide solace for all. When I am strong, I can be strong for others. When I have my footing, I can help others steady their stance. When I am calm, I can offer serenity, peace, tranquility and comfort.
I am not aloof, alone or almighty. I am connected, considerate and conscious.
I do it for me and for everyone. I do it for love.
Approaching Identity from the Outside In (Revised on March 16, 2014)
During my academic studies from 1998 to 2005, I questioned and continue to question the themes of the individual in society. I believe it all began for me with Albert Camus’ The Outsider when I was in Grade 12 English class. I remember feeling overwhelmed by the protagonist’s struggle. At the time, I had never read any text regarding issues of existentialism.
Abrams (1993) writes that existential philosophy argues “that temporality and historicality—a stance in one’s present that looks back to the past and anticipates the future—is inseparably a part of each individual’s being; that the process of understanding something, involving an act of interpretation, goes on not only in reading verbal texts but in all aspects of human experience….The understood meaning of the text is an event which is always the product of a ‘fusion of the horizons’ which a reader brings to the text and which the text brings to the reader” (p.93). In light of this current understanding of existentialism, I believe I now have an inkling of Camus’ effect on my thoughts.
In The Outsider, Mersault, the main character, lived without hope or so it seemed. His actions often misinterpreted by the status quo, led him down a path of self and societal awareness and ultimately, his demise. My resonance with Mersault comes more from my past doubts and fears.
One of Diamond and Mullen’s (1999) arts-based activities asks, “If writers become books when they die, which would you choose to inhabit?” (p.50). I share with you my written response.
If I die before I awake…
When I awake I find myself sitting in a funeral parlour. I know why I am here.
I know what book I am now living.
This is Camus’ world. To some, it is sometimes dark and dreary almost elusive. But for me, because I attempt to see other sides, I know this world is part of my home. To my left a line forms as they approach the coffin placed typically at the front of the room. I look down at my watch and realize that time does not matter.
There is no one sitting beside me. I am alone.
As I continue to age, I realize that loneliness is only a state of mind. We can choose to embrace it or fear it. For the longest time, I feared it and in doing so, I focused more attention on myself. I caused others discomfort because I could not learn to swallow my neediness. I was told to be strong or I was simply asked to be quiet. I could not understand the pain.
But now, I realize that I am not alone.
I am moving through my life fully aware that others, like me, move too. Others live daily negotiations of identity because it affects us all. I know this now.
I hear a shuffle in the crowd and rouse from my solace. The couple in front of me has turned around and so, I slowly turn my head.
At the back of the room, I see a gentleman enter. He is dressed simply almost unsuspectingly. I recognize his manner but I do not recognize his face. He seems to upset the audience, but I find nothing unusual about him. Slowly, he moves towards the front and each step seems to cause more of a reaction from the room.
I know why they treat him this way. He is called the outsider. Meursault.
He sits beside me, but I do not look at him. His story is placed alongside my own. I look down at my watch and remember myself. This story begins to unfold the moment he speaks.
I await his first words. (Arts-Based Teacher Activity, Bautista, September 2001)
This arts-based response from my past danced through my present and in the future it finds its place. My thesis, a negotiation, from cover to cover, is not the whole truth, the real truth; in fact, my words are simply (re)living moments, finding their way. I have to keep remembering that unlike Meursault, I live hopefully. Same and different.
Slattery (1995) writes, “Postmodern schooling must reconnect students and teachers, space and time, meaning and context, the knower and the known, humanities and sciences, and especially past, present and future….Postmodernism celebrates the process of becoming and the interdependence of eternal becoming.” (p. 261). Thus, my work does not promise to eradicate prejudice or to provide a “how-to” guide on teaching for peace. There is neither a beginning nor an end to my work, and like diversity, my work travels and lives. I open this window of opportunity as an exploratory attempt to wonder, to share and to demonstrate my experiences.
Since my high school introduction to Camus, I invested a great deal of time negotiating the self in relation to others. At the time, I don’t think I could have named this central theme as my one eternal quest. But somehow, in some way, the theme appears(ed). In high school, I questioned Hamlet’s dilemma by focusing on his dramatic monologues, the soliloquies. I argued that setting in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises transforms Jake’s sole position; I researched the Greeks’ use of masks and shared thoughts on Tolstoy’s belief in the unifying principle of death as the sole equalizer among all the classes of humankind. Aloneness, environment, hidden faces, unity—some states of self(ves).
In University, I composed numerous projects on Identity and took courses on Anti-racist education, Women in Literature, Gender in Cinema, Theatre and Society, Asian Identity in Film, Prison Literature in America, Holocaust as Improvisational and Play-making tool. Ethnicity, gender, culture—some forms of others.
If a character was feeling marginalized, I desperately searched for the reason. Why? Perhaps, I wanted to know more about how my self relates to others. All of those past thoughts, essays, projects, courses, and performances—lead me to my thesis, to my (future) now. Again, I continue to unpack and repack for my hopeful life journey.
Abrams, M.H. (1993). A Glossary of Literary Terms, Sixth Edition. Orlando, FL: HarcourtBraceJovanovichCollege Publishers. (Original work published 1957)
Diamond, C.T.P.&Mullen, C.A. (1999). The Postmodern Educator. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.
Slattery, P. (1995). Curriculum Development in the Postmodern Era. New York & London: Garland Publishing, Inc.