Thursday, December 13, 2007


One of the reasons why we might be driven to express is to be understood. And the thing with communication between two people is the existence of the second person. Where my experience with the two-or-more person communication has mostly been stifling, exasperating, frustrating...or more.

Stifling, because the presence of another person curbs expression, in thought, in speech, or both.

Exasperating, because unless the other person does not care about you, there will be give-away moments. Facial expressions that convey approval, disapproval, I have an opinion but I'll let it pass this once, etc.

Frustrating, because no matter how good their intentions are, they will be given to a few interceptions - sometimes breaking the flow, or interjecting it with their world view.

So it nearly never serves the purpose. Of being heard, felt, experienced, and understood, as is.

That's why, some of us resort to writing reflections. Rather than aligning our thoughts and feelings and their expression to whose listening, we throw out the expressions to whoever's listening, or not.

For some other things that we want to write about, we have spaces floating on the internet, with non-identifiable no one can trace them back to us. I do that, for some of the things I need to express. Not to say that every reflection has a shady parallel version to it. But yes, some of the things I feel and think of, I wouldn't be very comfortable (or confident) claiming. Not to people I know.

There is yet another level. The thoughts and feelings that you don't acknowledge even (or most?) to yourself. They need no space.

It is with this belief, despite the reverence I feel for the written word, that I hold biographies and autobiographies in some disregard. Just the concept, I believe, is in violation of the basic tenets of writing, honesty and integrity. I think anybody who claims otherwise is either in denial, or is being false. To my mind, when someone writes an autobiography, they either have a desperate need to deny who they really are. Or they want to acknowledge and claim as their own, what rightfully is not theirs to claim. I believe that it is not possible to take away the "aspiration" of you from this process. This would be an inherent inflection in a narrative of yourself.

I believe, that in this world, there does not exist an auto -biography or -biographer, that would have been not infiltrated by this aspiration. When aspiration treads on reality, expressions blur. This backed with the compulsion (helplessness?) to see things the way you wish they were rather than what they are. Add to that that we all have an image of who we are, who we ought to be, or have been. And what you have is a very heady cocktail.

When you go down one step (further), you have a biography; an autobiography that has been processed and channelized through a foreign body. Does not even merit an evaluation, I believe.

Getting back to the part about expressing with the objective of being understood.
Two things come to mind.

Are you looking at being interpreted or intercepted? Are your thoughts getting out through the readers untouched and undiluted. Or are they travelling through the recesses of the readers' mind and life experiences and assuming a different shape and form.

And by someone or no one in particular? You're probably doing this to feel connected and understood. By the world, or by someone out there in the world. Reflections afford you an intense opportunity to express and create a connection to the world...of the present, as also of the future. One hundred years from now, if someone were to read your words, you would live again, fleetingly or perhaps forever. I know some of the words that I've read will not go with me to the grave, they will leave me at my grave and move on, carried by the soul into my remaining life times.

So perhaps you live on, not because or whether you have been interpreted for what you are, but more for how profoundly you have affected or stirred someone.

So then it's still not about you, is it.


Varsha said...

One of the reasons why we might be driven to express is to be understood.

The others are:
1. Innate and strong need for expression, probably stemming from the need to make a statement that I exist and I count.

2. Exhibitionism - display of one's intellectual prowess, clever language play, depth/beauty/uniqueness of feelings

3. Loneliness - need for connection with the world outside as opposed to being an island unto one's own self

4. Extrinsic/external rewards associated with expression

5. Belief in one's own importance - ego or self-respect, whatever you may call it- makes the person believe that what they say, think or feel is important to another.

6. Unawareness that what can be really understood - as in, understood with empathy and not just at the intellectual/conceptual level - is what already resonates in another at some deep level. There is very little that is understood that is alien to us.

These are things I have thought off-hand - but I am sure there are many more.

The mistaken notion of "Being understood" is just one of them.

Anirudh said...

C'mon Priya, with all your structured articulation, you forgot to mention one MAJOR point.

In your communication, you do need a second person (read ME). You can't deny that I bring out the best in you :)