Thursday, January 22, 2009

Oh, I can see the forest in spite of the tree. Metaphor time! Get ready to wax philosophical.

I had an English teacher in high school who tried to shy her students away from using cliches in our writing because she personally hated them. She thought they were, in themselves, cliche. While I looked up to this woman a great deal, I have always thought that if you have the urge to write, WRITE! Don't allow any deterrents be they spelling or grammar concerns, or even the pet peeves of someone whose opinion mattered to you at some point in your life.

So, as usual with my writing lately, inspiration struck this morning right when I woke up - not in the middle of the night this time at least. I've had one of my best friends on the brain for the last two days because, as a gal who has always written from her heart, she had been making some statements recently online that just downright ground my gears. This virtual world allows us to have some very strangely altered relationships. I got a little pushy with her, but in our entire history together we have always been able to respectfully disagree - as we do now. That is all fine and well, but one thing she said got me started down a particular train of thought. This whole "can't see the forest in spite of the trees" business you're waiting for me to finally getting around to talking about. Those of you nut jobs crazy enough to regularly follow this blog. She didn't actually use the forest/tree phrase, but our exchange brought the old adage into my mind.

I've wondered about how that concept works and have come up with a theory for myself. What I'm talking about specifically is how people view the world, which from this point on is going to be loosely referred to as a great big forest. What we are seeing when we look up are representations. Each tree represents a person, a pet, a material possession, an event and so on. I have my own forest that is not merely a single tree and the same is true of everyone else. My body and soul are even comprised of separate trees; neither of which are in wonderful shape. My own great forest overshadows but does not block my view of the world's vast forests. It does, however, alter my perception of them.

I've said many times that I am no activist, though I do write the occasional letter to any powers that be I feel need to hear my voice when there is an err I cannot overlook. Farmington's mayor got an earful from me last week, in fact. But that's another story for another day. I don't concern myself much with the majority of the sea of arbores. It's not, as the cliche says, because of the singular tree or even my own little forest of trees in front of my face blocking my vision of the rest. It is because some of my trees are on fire, or are wilting with age or some type of deprivation, or have broken limbs. When I do take those moments to gaze upon and sometimes study those backwoods, jungles and thickets around the world...I see that mine are not the only trees in pain or danger. Sometimes I only find open glades where someone has nothing in life to keep them waking up in the morning. Even looking still further I will come across skeletal landscapes where people have once had everything and lost it all in one or a series of cataclysmic events - perhaps devised by themselves in some cases whether intentional or not. For instance, a person with a fatal drug addiction.

Here's the kicker though. While for one person, their view of a particular tree may be gaunt, to another, that same tree may be lush and full and its fruit within reach (we're not all pine trees either, by the way). We are each multifaceted that way and in our perceptions of each other.

I brought up my lack of activism above for this reason. For me personally, it would be far less responsible for me to take any time at all away from the dangers that portions of my own forest face to go chasing down some giant oak bursting into flames ten thousand miles away with a tiny little bucket of water. I'm not saying that one person can't make a difference by saying that so please, don't allow that to lead you in that direction. I can see the representation of that oak clearly through my television, radio and newspaper. What I can never see clearly, however, is who or what started the fire in the first place or why; or how that one guy who showed up was able to get his hands on such a big hose. Try to keep your minds out of the gutter with that one. It's difficult, I know. At any rate, I can only see what scant portion of the story has been chosen to be told by, once again, the powers that be. Ah, the media. Notice I made a point not to say "liberal media"? EVERYONE's guilty on both the delivery and receipt sides. Viewers, listeners, readers are all just as much to blame for swallowing what we are fed without question. It only encourages the hands that feed us to eventually start throwing banana peels in there. What? You mean they really ate that? Well heck, I've got some old coffee grounds and egg shells I've been meaning to get rid of so let's toss those in there next week and see who bites then we'll simply call them our "target audience". While all of that actually is good for compost, which is good for trees I'm still going along with the metaphor here so please keep playing along. Humor me. Before long anyway, the temptation would become too great and they'd just start tossing in items that are bad for the compost like chicken bones and cheese. Just look at the Britney Spears fiasco in recent years where all that everyone wanted was for the paps and the media to leave her alone and yet there the world was gorging on every gruesome moment of it, buying up the magazines and gluing their eyes to the train wreck. As a trained photographer I know exactly how to make you believe what I want you to believe through my imagery. So, just how far am I comfortable ethically going with that power? Far less than some. Somehow, I don't think photo-shopping a clear complexion for myself is going to wind me up in purgatory. Many others have far more to answer for.

My point? My little theory about this forest thing has two clear options though I'll concede that there may be any number of alternate possibilities. First, those who do run off with their buckets and hoses have safe and happy groves waiting around for them when they get back home. These individuals, I must note, may or may not be responsible for the flourishing state of their forest. While rare and improbable, it's a possible scenario. Second, these crusaders have altered their perceptions to the point that they do not place themselves in the position of caretaker or even just an overseer of their forest whether it be in ship shape or crumbling away. This second option could also have any number of variations to it, but I think I'm making at least a little bit of sense with that general statement. I hope. I could get into some very specific theories regarding peoples' motivations for doing the things they do, but I'm no psychologist and they'd all be hypothetical gibberish anyway. I'd rather not bore myself (or you) with that either.

My dashes of cynicism (with media in particular) only exacerbate my reluctance to join up with any cause I am not the founder of. Believe me, I do know how that sounds. I'm comfortable with that though at this stage in my life where my little forest is in such chaos. Even if it was one of the flourishing landscapes that sometimes feels like such a rarity, I would likely feel and act the same way. Do I fully understand that there are starving children, murderers, pollutants and so on in my own backyard and beyond? Of course I do. I cannot force myself to care too much about any of that though outside of my little bubble of space. Again, yes, I know how that may be perceived. At the same time, I'm not too concerned with those perceptions either as I am very comfortable in my own skin, faults and all, and the decisions I make every day. I'm the one that has to live with myself, after all and my conscience is clear.

So, basically, what I'm saying about perception is that while I can see the forest in spite of the tree, so to speak, I will continue to direct my concerns where I feel in my heart deserve or require the most attention from me as an individual. This is not a defense, mind you, I already have discussed here and elsewhere that I feel no need to defend myself for being me. It is merely a delving into something I've loosely thought about for several years and finally had enough of a spark of inspiration to dive into it at more length. Again, these damn politics being my inspiration for writing?!? That's crap!

I can't have a post without at least one picture so for the sake of keeping with tradition and also having a little bit of fun, this is how I see myself as a tree:

The weeping willow, very dramatic (in every sense of the word) and a little all over the place and very protectively covering that which really makes me tick.

But, once you're past all the exterior flash and protection, I'll show you another side that reveals far more about me. Don't go trying to get past that bark though if you know what's good for you. Even I don't like looking there. And no, that's not a nude joke. Just one last piece of the metaphor.

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