Monday, June 28, 2010

The Language of Socks

One of my earliest memories was of sitting on a bench in a rectory as my Uncle carried on quiet conversation with our parish priest.

We had taken off our shoes when we entered the small room and I was painfully knowledgeable that my socks were soiled. I awkwardly tried to avoid drawing attention to my little self, thinking that it was somehow enormously wrong to have dirty socks in this of all places.

I struggled to tuck my feet as far underneath the bench as my little body would enable so that Father wouldn't see my feet.

Somehow, at four years of age in a world that was occupied largely by imaginary friends and memorizing the colours in my crayon box, I was intensely aware that my soles needed cleansing.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Missing Buttons

Imagine yourself getting dressed. You proceed to do up your buttons, top one first, then the next, but as you proceed down the line you realize you are missing one. Your mind scrambles to remember the 'tug' or the little thread that was pulled releasing the anchor from its moor. You try to recall the sound it made as it dropped to the floor, and where you tucked it for safekeeping until such time as you could reattach it.

What happens when we don't maintain connections; when we become careless and don't attend to strengthening them? It may be a bit of a stretch to equate missing buttons to soul loss but consider what happens when we can no longer 'keep it all neatly tucked inside'?

Human contact is essential. Evidently, having someone to confide in is very good for our health.

I was remembering an interview documenting the growing social isolation among people in North America. A professor at Duke University had conducted a survey that revealed North Americans have fewer close confidantes than they did twenty years ago. The numbers indicate a dramatic social change.

Is human contact diminishing? Could our prevalent use of the Internet be influencing whether we have fewer close ties?

There could be numerous explanations, including the changing nature of our interactions. Society has become more racially diverse. We tend to have smaller families, marry later in life, and have fewer children than we did twenty years ago. People are spending more hours in the labour force, partly as a result of more women going to work. People are more dispersed geographically and tend to have longer commutes due to proliferating suburban communities. Socioeconomics continue to play a role as people who are well educated, white, and well off, tend to have more resources than people who lack education, or who are from minority racial or ethnic groups.

One major area of note is that women tend to have more confidantes than men. Just as physical fitness has its own rewards, having someone to confide in is equally important. Researchers who have studied the relationship between stress and disease speak of the mind-body connection or the 'body and soul connection' commenting that one of the best things a person can do to nurture good health is to maintain quality relationships. Having someone to talk to aids in combating stress, fatigue, and difficult life experiences.

The researchers also found that women tend to share from their souls and connect with other women, confiding on a deeper personal level about relationships and day-to-day pressures, while men tend to emphasize superficial or communal interests, and therefore don't develop as many emotional associations as women.

The question remains whether to button up or not.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Performing the Act of Listening

If something is meaningful to me, perhaps it holds meaning for another as well. Just as a thread connects a button to a garment, a thread of communication connects one person to another. Words once spoken cannot be taken back without leaving some residual substance behind. They remain forever 'out there' lingering in the vastness of the universe.

I understand radio transmissions to be like that. As a child, I was fascinated by radio waves forever circling the heavens, scattered and fragmented in the many pockets of a universe I wasn't even aware existed.

Words can also live on as memory, deeply embedded within our psyche - an embodied experience. We can cut our ties with a person, but inside us, no matter how hard we try to bury or push them aside, words remain.

Listening is a powerful means of communication. It can be passive or active. Listening involves far more than mere silence on the part of the listener. Active listening is attentive; participants are fully engaged and feedback is often given through body language.

Can listening also be an art form? Can the experience of listening or being listened to, be beautiful or thought provoking? I suppose we have to examine our finely-ingrained definitions of what 'art' is to determine whether we accept listening as a form of art, just as we need to consider a 'performance artist' as the artwork.

Art as a performance is not so very different than art on a wall. Viewers form ideas, opinions, insights, connections, and sometimes are confronted by discontent or opposition to the circumstances. All situations demand a response or reaction. When we enter an art gallery, do we have the expectation that we will see something familiar, something that we recognize? Perhaps we have the expectation of seeing something we haven't seen before. It is an art gallery after all - a space for viewers to suspend belief, if only for a little while, and take the work in through their various senses. Next time you enter an art gallery, consider what the work is asking of you, rather than what you are asking of it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The First Post

I have spent years doing laundry, both mine and others. It is drudgery and a chore that cannot be fully appreciated for being anything more. During those hours of exasperating toil of what I considered to be an empty and futile task (what was done today only became undone again tomorrow) my creative mind drifted to the endless secrets and stories that laundry possessed.

An article of clothing is not much different than an article of information. Snagged threads, stained collars, runs in knits, torn pant knees, clothing that showed wear in predictable places as children outgrew them, pockets that held much more than lint: so many intimacies were revealed in those repositories of information.

I never revealed my findings however. I was protective of the secrets I became privy to and considered my role as laundress equal to a person in a position of utmost confidence.

There was a tremendous responsibility in that assignment. I held confidences that could topple... well, small kingdoms. I became the repository.

A good laundress learns to mend minor 'indiscretions' and a confidante is a woman to whom personal matters and secrets are told and entrusted. It was through laundry that I learned my path in life held meaning.