I am always amazed by how much art can make us reflect about life in different angles, and also by how much discussing about it – whether it is a painting, a movie or a book – with other people allow us to expand even more our points of view and thoughts.
Due to social distancing on account of coronavirus, I tried other means of being close to my loved ones, and one of the best ones turned out to be through art. Every week, each one of us chooses a movie and after watching it, we share our thoughts and feelings about it. It has been so nice to do it and happily expect the movie discussing day, from which always come out long life learnings that I’ll carry along forever.
In one of the past discussions, the chosen movie was “Anomalisa”, a stop motion adult animation directed by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson. The movie goes over a man who is a customer service expert who went to Ohio to give a lecture about his field of expertise. At the hotel where he is staying, he meets a woman who is going to turn his world upside down (or not). I am not going to tell you much more of the story, because I dareto say it is a good movie to watch without knowing much about, just to be aware of the fact that it is a mind blowing masterpiece, very well written and directed. However, the main point is that our main character, Michael Stone, is clearly tired of superficial relationships, talks and people. For him, everyone looks the same and are not individuals with their own personality. Thus, it made me think a lot about human communication, especially after all gadgets that supposedly allow us to communicate more and better, besides being able to show “our true self” on social media.
Don’t you have the impression that most of the times we greet people, either on the street, at home or in the elevator, we are simply recognizing each other, but not deeply talking about anything? Don’t get me wrong, I still think this recognizing ritual is great, because I am saddened when no one answers my good morning greeting, for example. Nevertheless, I feel social media worsened this type of superficiality and indifference in our interactions: instead of looking in people’s eyes and giving them a smile, we spit out words we don’t even remember we said with our eyes sticked to our phone screens. Our lack of attention with other people’s feelings and with what they have to say seems to be increasing, because we are so worried with what popped up on our phone that we don’t notice a big part of what is happening next to us.
This problem severely bothers me, and it concerns me how we are losing our human ability of being gregarious. Friendships and family/love relationships lose their blooming potential every day in account of online news, likes and captions that even though they may seem real and fill your day, they end up making you feel empty every single time you lie your head on your pillow. For sure, we don’t seem to be trying to create genuine human ties anymore, but just living relied on our digital image, based on what we post. Indeed, beautiful particular universes, in screens, don’t shine as bright as they can, people are unique essences with no perfume.
In addition, we do not give permission for other people to talk, and consequently silence ourselves to hear, especially the minorities. After social media’s boom, many people started to think minorities would have more space and more power in their voices, and it really can be so in specific situations, but it is definitely not yet a majority. The system of paying to push posts in order to achieve a bigger public maintains the same old structure of who has money, has a voice. Is social media really a democratic space that gives voice to everyone equally? Who is really able to talk and more than that, to be truly listened to?
From here onwards, another thought I have is that with so much noise and so many people talking – yet not being heard at all – on the internet, we also do not have space for silence in our life. Due to that weekly interaction of discussing movies, I ended up watching a few Studio Ghibli’s movies. All of them have a special feature that is hard to find in mainstream cinema: moments of silence, contemplation, specifically defined by “Ma”, a japanese word for Emptiness. For Hayao Miyazaki, famous director and co-founder of Studio Ghibli, in interview to Roger Ebert, “What really matters is the underlying emotions — that you never let go of those”.I can see how much the viewer can comprehend better the movie through this emptiness, by having time and a slow pace to realize small but important details about the story and the characters. Also, the viewer has more time to mature his reflections that would not come out if the scenes were filled with strong action.
Likewise, in our daily life and eyes sticked to screens, we do not allow ourselves to enjoy silence. We seem to be losing our capacity of reflecting on our actions, thinking about our feelings and understanding ourselves and the world better. We lose bit by bit the small but significant kindness of giving more smiles, saying more “thank you”s and returning back the received love. We are missing all the details, that are exactly the ones that matter the most. We are more short-sighted, impulsive and heartless. I wonder if instantaneous likes and comments are worth everything we are losing.
In the episode 19 of “How Did I Get Here”, a podcast I often listen to, Diane, the co-host of the show (hosted by Jae, guitarist of the south korean band Day6), said that we should be a good audience for each other. This echoed in my head and I see how much all the technology noise I talked about disturbs us from being a good audience for each other and for ourselves. Are we always standing up while the movie is going on to whatever distraction that comes up? Are we only watching films with our heads on the clouds, not even interested about the scenes, the richness of dialogues and the characters interactions? Are we going to the movies only to take a picture and show to others that we are, in theory, living? I sincerely think we should reflect on which type of audience we are, in order to seize life and its plentiness better, to nurture truer relationships, more full of presence and care. To live more lovingly and more peacefully, with ourselves and those around us.
Júlia dos Santos Acerbi