I honestly had forgotten what the reading was about. So I had a look at my notes and it came back to me… That week’s reading was a bit conflicting for me, it tapped into a very dangerous compartment of my mind: that of self awareness. Apparently, when I was much younger, we are talking four or five, I developed a heightened degree of self awareness in the mere hope of becoming an adult before all my friends did. I say friends which, in retrospect may be a slight euphemism, in essence I mean my two friends and any “kid” I came across. In order to live by such a principle, I had to nurture a heightened sense of self awareness. Seldom I would slip and laugh at a “childish” joke or “take part” in an infantile activity (conscious word choice to best transcribe my mindset at the time). Looking back I realize that I must have slipped many more times than I actually thought I did. Regardless, if my values and interests have changed (evolved?) I still have a FBSA office in the back of my head (Federal Bureau of Self Awareness) constantly commenting to the rest of my head about my own actions.
Coincidentally, I had a very personal reaction to both Adrian Piper and Eleanor Antin’s essays. The former one rang the bells of my FBSA which suddenly decided to do some house cleaning. My reading went from feeling like a jog on the beach to running waist-deep in a pool of seaweed. Every comment or remark she made refracted itself into a million questions about what I “would’ve done,” “had done,” “should do” in the given situations. Then, after praising self-examination, she says “But self-awareness is largely a matter of degree.” There I go, from waist-deep I manage to fall down to neck-deep in my seaweed as my FBSA becomes over-zealous.
STOP! I decide to skim over the methodology she presents (it seems to be the only way to keep myself from drowning): false identity mechanism, the illusion of perfectibility, and the one way communication mechanism. I fly through the first to in a breeze, I cannot wait to seal this can of worms, and then the first line of “The one-way communication mechanism” catches my eye: “You deflect dissents, criticisms or attacks,” I swallow sadly as my FBSA caught me red-handed.
Looking back however I realize that the third mechanism is a very relevant and common tool for me. In the earlier terms, I naively poured my “heart and soul” for my teachers and classmates to pick at during my critiques, the result was unforgivingly painful. I was left exhausted (over dramatic?) and slightly buzzed from the flock of remarks (good, bad, useless, uninteresting, exiting, motivating, enriching, demoralizing, out of context) my work had received. However the final verdict seemed promising: “Hugo you are creative, we’ll give you that. Everything else needs work.”
This final insight on how “others think” slowly led me to “protect myself,” slowly dismissing a lot more critiques as uninteresting, useless, annoying, “treating those of other people as mere symptoms of psychological defect.”
I like to think that I am now learning to shift back and forth in and out of my shell similarly to what Antin brings forth in her “An autobiography of the artist as an autobiographer.” In her essay, Antin, expresses the physical and metaphysical use of one’s body and life as a “field of possibilities.” I may be projecting slightly, but it seems that “possibilities” can be deconstructed as: sanctuary, inspiration, outpost, to name a few, in other words mechanisms, with which to express yourself (which itself is identified through self examination).
I think self examination is important so long as it is constructive. Resorting to self awareness to reprimand oneself for having racist, sexist or socially deprecating comments may help temporarily ease social conventions but will never help anyone get anywhere. On the other hand, adapting self awareness to discover one has a King, a Black Movie Star, a Ballerina, and a Nurse in them (and most likely even more) is a “better” more useful and healthy implication of one’s FBSA. Of course one may use Piper’s techniques to orient themselves in the deep seaweed pool of consciousness but ultimately, unless they open their eyes to “possibilities” they will suffocate. At least I would’ve.