Monday, 2 May 2011

Four questions?

Ah, apologies, my sweet companions of the road. I have left you high and dry. All these bank holidays have befuddled and confaddled me. I am juggling a lot right now and Time is playing tricksy.


But fear not, the Pact remains and the Journey is starting. Who is coming along? Well, every kind of person, I suspect. I love those who trust, so much – the ones who just launched in and waved their hands eagerly in the air - without having a clue where we're going or what we're doing: Louise Nash, Vivienne Tuffnell, Sessha Batto, Mud in the City spring to mind. But then again, I love those who question and those who doubt too. Will every person be sweetness and light? I hope not. There is room for the tricksters and the plain awkward squad as well as the sweet honeys (cos you can’t make pearls without grit).

Must every person be an artist and a bleeding heart? Hell, no. We need someone to make the sandwiches; someone to pitch the tents; someone to tell us when we’re going just too far, going way too bonkers, and that playing hopscotch in the storm in metal gumboots isn’t the brightest idea. Fire alone burns too bright, too fast; Earth alone gets mired in the mud; Water alone seeps and evaporates; Air alone gets spread too thin. We need one another. We need the contrasts.

My lovely niece Sophie (wise Water) came to stay for the weekend and we talked books and music, life and love, spirit and soul. But above all we talked about people and assumptions and generalisations and about jumping to conclusions. We’re so quick to judge, to condemn. Someone on Twitter said he could never countenance talking to a royalist or anyone who wasn’t a socialist. Another said she was going to unfollow anyone who had tweeted about the royal wedding. It’s interesting what pushes our buttons; what makes us decide a person is okay or not.

I’m seeing it again today on Twitter as the world erupts with fevered excitement over the death of Osama bin Laden. It’s that tribal ‘you’re with us or against us’ thing and I confess it puzzles me. I hate terrorism, I really do but I can’t punch the air at a man’s death; no, not even his death. Hate the acts, not the person, surely?

Anyhow. I told Sophie how one of the most wonderful experiences I have ever had was going on silent retreat for a week. I hadn’t a clue what people did ‘for a living’ or any of the mundane facts about their lives. I just got a sense of them from – what? – intuition? A feeling? Heart?  Soul?  I snatched clues too from their images – some of us painted (obsessively in my case) in the studio. At the end of the week I felt extremely close to a few people. When we talked, I found my favourite people were, variously, a psychiatrist, a surgeon, a nun, unemployed. All titles that come laden with preconceptions.  Halleluyah - we’d by-passed all that crap.  We knew one another as people, as fellow 'pilgrims'.

‘We ask the wrong questions,’ I said to Sophie.
‘I hate that we’re defined by what we do,’ she replied.
‘It’s always the same four questions, isn’t it?’ I said. ‘What do you do? Where do you live/come from? Are you single/partnered? Have you got children?’ I suppose we’re trying to pin people down – to fit them in boxes?
‘What are the questions we should ask,’ I pondered. ‘If we really want to know what makes a person tick at a deeper level?’
‘Questions that open up stories, I think,’ said Sophie. ‘Questions that stir emotions.’

We debated this for so long we lost track of time and Sophie nearly missed her train. We didn’t really come up with any concrete answers either. But we sort of roughed out these for starters...

• Which is your favourite sense? If you could only experience the world through one sense which would it be?
• Which piece of art (music, book, poem, film, TV show, performance etc) most rocked your world?
• Your house is on fire – all people, animals and vital documents are safe – what one thing do you rescue?
• If you were a god/dess, which one would you be?

Did we pick good questions? What would you pick? What are your answers to these four?

16 comments:

M J Francis said...

You're right, of course, about those standard questions everyone asks when they meet. After that, the conversation can dry up for many people, as if profession and marital status are the only things of interest - the attributes that define you.

I'd like to ask, "What shapes do you see in the clouds?"

Bit of a difficult one today, however, as the sky is a cloudless blue.

Sessha Batto said...

Ooh, good questions ;) although I suspect any questions that dig into who a person is are intriguing. My favorites (of late only and mostly due to Lurch's school project on the topics) are What is your favorite food and why? and What do you want done with your remains when you die?

As to the answers to YOUR questions:

1) sight, definitely ;) I experience more of the world more deeply through my vision than any other sense - although some things, like reading, could be experienced without sight the loss of the beauty of nature, the wonder of art and the joy of a smile would be devastating!

2)ONE piece . . . damn that's tough! I'm going to choose a movie, Lawrence of Arabia, because it is the film that truly opened up to me how much the medium could communicate. Even now after literally hundreds of viewings I still find myself standing in that desert, feeling the unevenness of the sand beneath my feet and the ever present thirst.

3)Finally an easy one - my favorite sword (although, given the opportunity I'd grab all of them) it is an extension of my soul I would be bereft without.

4)Goddess of Mercy and Compassion - qualities I try so desperately to find in my frail mortal form.

That's it - interesting exercise ;)

Sheena Ignatia said...

Which is your favourite sense? If you could only experience the world through one sense which would it be?
Spidey sense
• Which piece of art (music, book, poem, film, TV show, performance etc) most rocked your world?
Glee- should be available on the NHS
• Your house is on fire – all people, animals and vital documents are safe – what one thing do you rescue? Can't think of anything. Nothing probably.
• If you were a god/dess, which one would you be?

The Tooth Fairy

Sage said...

Which is your favourite sense? Sight, for without that I would be lost. Everything else I can imagine which would help to replace the lost ones.
• Which piece of art (music, book, poem, film, TV show, performance etc) : It has to be The charge of the light brigade by Tennyson, my first introduction to poetry with real meaning and introduced me to words used in a different way.
• Your house is on fire – all people, animals and vital documents are safe – what one thing do you rescue? My journal, which is my soul in words.
• If you were a god/dess, which one would you be? I would like to be Freya, I love the norse gods but I am not sure why.

My question, if you could do just one thing for someone else, what would it be and who would it be for?

Exmoorjane said...

MJ: exactly. Just like when you're a student the only question is 'which subject?' - I used to say aeronautical engineering just to confound expectations. ;)

Nice question - I usually see either distant shorelines or dragons. :)

Sessh: love your answers. Let me try yours - hmm... muesli, I think. Simple, satisfies and I will eat at any time of day or night.
If anything remains, I'd go for a sky burial!

Sheena: SO pleased you did this - and you are SO coming on the Journey, even if I have to nobble your knees... I'm like you - not sure I'd race to save anything. I like travelling light. ;) Hmm, though then again - laptop mebbe?

Sage: fascinating answers and, see, I feel like I know you a little more already. :) Hmm, re your question - could I have miraculous healing powers so I could reverse my friend John's MND?

Frances said...

Your niece Sophie sounds like a lovely person...I can imagine how she would have almost missed her train. Who would want to stop trading thoughts with you?

Sight is definitely my favorite sense, but I'd find it truly difficult to pick just one possibility for the answer to any of your other three questions.

When I meet someone new, I am often interested in whether they like to read, spend much time outdoors, are right/left-handed, are larks or owls. I'm usually a bit curious about the person's playfulness, generosity of spirit, attention span.

Rattling on here. xo

zenandtheartoftightropewalking said...

Which is your favourite sense? If you could only experience the world through one sense which would it be? Sight or possibly touch not sure•
Which piece of art (music, book, poem, film, TV show, performance etc) most rocked your world? not a clue
• Your house is on fire – all people, animals and vital documents are safe – what one thing do you rescue? my teddy bear Pooh; I've had him since I was 2
• If you were a god/dess, which one would you be? Mary Magdalene make of that what you will. I have the hair for it.

zenandtheartoftightropewalking said...

trying again
I sometimes think we can know all we need to about a person by spending a few hours gazing into each other's eyes (or is that too sick making) and perhaps that makes me a hopeless romantic I'd hate to admit to
I also think how someone reacts to a) a flat tyre b) a baby wit a nappy to be changed c) and excited dog and d) me in tears will also tell you a lot.
silence reveals so much.
I still think you'd love Strangers and Pilgrims, Jane. The idea is so central to it.
Viv

Zoë said...

Why do people want to put us in boxes? I don't fit in any.

My question would be, if you had an egg, what would you do with it?

• Which is your favourite sense? Sight without a doubt, and the irony is I am loosing it.
• Which piece of art?
Probably the Altar piece in St Basil's Ghent, by Van Eyck. Closely followed by Monet's Waterlilies

• Your house is on fire – all people, animals and vital documents are safe?
My wedding ring.

• If you were a god/dess, which one would you be?

I'd probably be the Green Wo/Man, maybe I would be the Holly King, or Yew? A pagan woodland goddess anyway.

louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife said...

I was getting enraged about this very subject the other day - I hate small talk and the assumptions made by those basic questions. But then the following day, I asked someone what he did for a living -- which is just about my least favourite of those questions because it assumes you work outside the home for a living, that the job is meaningful enough to you to be discussion worthy and it provokes all sort of judgements. I asked him that question though because I strongly suspected what he did and knew that it was a quick way to common ground and mutual friends. I still hate myself a little for asking it though ;)

I like your first three questions but am not so keen on the last one because I don't know much about gods or goddess ;)

My sense would be sight; my piece of art would change daily but two books spring to mind right now (Microserfs by Douglas Coupland because when I first read it at 17, it introduced me to the existence of a culture that wasn't obvious to me in my hometown - a geeky, thoughtful one - and more recently, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day because it was so seize the day and delightful); and the fire thing is tough - maybe my teenage diaries because they're so personal and vivid. As I said, I don't know anything about gods, but I know more about dogs and it would be disloyal to suggest I was anything other than a springer spaniel (although the truth be told, I'm smaller and slower than a springer, so probably a cocker spaniel) ;)

clareybabble said...

Quite a thought provoking post. I am crap at small talk full stop and I always feel like my answers to the standard questions are really lame. It's kind of why I like Twitter. You can just jump in and talk to anyone without really knowing their 'standard answers'.

My favourite sense would be my hearing, having lost some of it recently. I can just sit and listen - to the children, the silence or the people chatting next door. I'm too nosy!

Art...I'm not sure. I love music. Music brings back memories or stirs emotions, or just makes me want to dance and sing, badly ;)

In a fire I'd definitely try and pull out my PC, mainly to save my photos. Also my childrens keepsake boxes.

I think I'd be the goddess of peace and goodwill. I just like everyone to get on!

Exmoorjane said...

Frances: rattle, rattle, please never stop rattling. Oh, one of these fine days I am SO coming to see you in your wonderful city. Then we can discuss all this, at huge length... :)

Viv: I KNOW I'd love your book but, as I said before, I'm SUCH a sponge...will read when a particular project is done and dusted! And oh, oh, both posts came through and both are wonderful!

Zoe: Exactly! Love your answers - yeah, you would SO have to be someone with foliage! Though, hmm, I'll still stick with Athena. :)
An egg? Hmm. *ponders*

Louisa: huge thanks for such a detailed answer. I loved Miss Pettigrew... Funny thing, the last question was one I put on after our original convo... And hey, you could be the SP - he's a minor deity (and half Springer).. ;)

Exmoorjane said...

Clarey: you snuck in while I was typing! yeah, I love that about Twitter...sometimes get very surprised when I do find out what people *do*... :)

Alison Cross said...

Which sense? Probably sight - I love looking at things; bees, paintings, my son, the sky, words - can't imagine not being able to see them.....

What piece of art most rocked my world? God, there are so many things that could fit this category - first single that I bought, first gig that I went to, the first ballet that I took myself off to see, the first time I went to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and beheld the magnificence of Dali's Christ of St John....... can't pick one out!

What's the one thing that I rescue? Probably my hard-drive lol!

What goddess would I be? Well, even though I call myself Hestia, the goddess of the hearth, it's pretty tongue in cheek cos I'm probably as far away from a domestic goddess as it's possible to get.

I always fancied being Artemis for some reason. Might be the armour and the owl....

The question that I would ask someone as a conversation-opener would be....'if you were an animal, which animal would you be?' Not hugely original, but tends to get things off on a nice light-hearted bantery way :-)

Share your sentiments about Bin Laden. I don't think that celebrating his death the way we've seen some people rejoice, will help reconciliation or stop further fighting.

Some comments are quite extreme on FB and Twitter, aren't they?

AX

Mud in the City said...

What a wonderful conversation! That's what i love about travel as well, meeting people out of context and meeting Them and not the facade, the brand, the box they tick. I have had extraordinary encounters with amazing people who I'd never have got to know in my mundane short-sighted judgemental world.

As for the journey - I'm definitely on board.

Soooz said...

Damn it, Jane I swear I will arrive late for my own funeral. But I will still answer the questions, simply because I like them.
1…Which is your favourite sense? If you could only experience the world through one sense which would it be?
My sense of hearing, I couldn’t stand to be without the sound of music{The movie as well} the sound of laughter, the noise of a deeply inhaled breath when a touch meets expectations.
As long as I can hear words being said and read I would survive.

2…Which piece of art (music, book, poem, film, TV show, performance etc) most rocked your world?
That one is easy, My darling daughter took me out for my birthday..it was a surprise! I’ll say it was..Barbra Streisand live in concert in her “Timeless” tour in Sydney. 3 rows from the front.
We sat and cried together when she sang The Way We Were and we stood and screamed along with the thousands of other when the haunting melody of People began. I will never forget it.

3…Your house is on fire – all people, animals and vital documents are safe – what onething do you rescue?
My Cd collection and my original vynls: they are irreplaceable. But it would depend on how many cute guys in fireman uniforms were distracting me at the time.

4… If you were a god/dess, which one would you be? Athena.

Did we pick good questions? What would you pick? What are your answers to these four?
So they are my answers, and what 4 would I ask? Hmmm…
#1…If you were able to choose any profession in the world, what would it be and why?
#2…Which character in a fiction book has stayed with you since you first read the book? And why?
#3…If you could go back in time, what one invention would you prevent? And why?
#4…If there were a way to prevent just one illness, which would you choose and why?