Monthly Archives: April 2013

A Way of Hearing

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I had the recent honour to spend a day at Washington School of the Deaf (Washington State USA).  I don’t need to explicitly state the problems the children there have to deal with in their daily life – some have physical disabilities too and the life that the world has constructed for them isn’t constructed for people with some kind of disability.  There is very little thought for people without the things we all take for granted.

WSD

The school is a gift – I was moved by the love and patience the teachers have for the children – but I felt sad to know that the world doesn’t generally have that kind of patience.  Life is not easy for most of us but for these children it is and will be even harder work because life is not designed for people who are deaf (or for anyone with a disability – blindness, cerebral palsy, autism, etc.).

But what these children reinforce is the need for communication and allowing time to do it.  When they communicate to you, you have to listen and watch – and take the time to do this.  When you communicate to them, they listen and watch you. And when you’re not able to understand everything they say (I am not a signer so I listen to the sounds and watch their faces) you do understand the ‘sense’ of what they say.

'I Love You' in American Sign Language (ASL)

‘I Love You’ in American Sign Language (ASL)

And that is what is so often missing in everyday life – we’re more concerned about what we say, not how we say it. The intention behind what we say is just as key since this is who we are.  I think more of us would find life a lot more bearable if we said things with the intelligence of a deaf person – words with substance and emotion.  I am truly grateful to WSD and its dedicated staff for exposing me to their special pupils who hear and see far more than we give them credit for.  The world could learn from all that they are.

Love is Love Spoken or Not

A Way of Seeing

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I often wonder if people who don’t enjoy culture or do not feel drawn to any kind of artistic endeavour, are missing out on a way of seeing the world.  The poet Coleridge said of imagination – that it is the unconscious, primordial power of the soul and that knowledge is wedded to feeling.  So this would indicate that for knowledge to be accurate, it must have a relationship to feeling, to emotion – even to the irrational.  He also said that imagination allows us to see reality as a whole.  Parts are seen as a whole through the creative imagination; art is not a skill – it is the imaginative work of the soul.  Art is a certain kind of seeing – the inner eye’s fusion of the external and internal.

Coleridge

Freud went so far as to say that the discontent of the world is due to the lack of connection between the inner and the outer.

So what of the person making the art – singing the song, playing the instrument, writing the music/song, painting the picture, dancing the dance, writing the poem or book, or acting the character?  Coleridge said that a poet can be known by how he/she makes the reader express their emotions. The artist does not know what they’re expressing until it is expressed – hence it is unconscious.  Mentality cannot be strictly identified with consciousnes itself – e.g a musician is not completely aware/conscious of what or how well they’re playing.  They have a mentality of it but are not 100% conscious of it.

So having said all this, we are pointed to the concept that imagination clarifies and makes aspects of life clearer; in the act of elaboration, ironically we see more clearly.

I leave you with two quotes; one from a composer of great music – Sergei Rachmaninov – who says that his need to create music is linked with his reaction to it after it is created.  Both are efforts to create something good and beautiful through which the rest of life can be carried –

‘I always feel that my own music and my reactions to all music, remained spiritually the same, unendingly obedient in trying to create beauty.’

Life is lived forwards but understood backwards and we often need tools – such as the arts and imagination – to understand it.  In the book ‘The Other Side of You’ by Salley Vickers, one of the characters says ‘how little of another person’s reality is visible to us.  We see their form, their features, their shifts of expression, but all that constitutes their sense of self remains unseen.  And yet this invisible self is what to the individual constitutes their real identity.’

Vickers

Imagination is like a window which allows us to see others more clearly, as we use imagination to interpret the arts which are about people.  Film and Theatre Director Rufus Norris says in relation to his film ‘Broken’ – acting is the business of humanity.  The arts are more informative than we give them credit for and far more than simply fantastical.

Broken