Hollywood Dialogues

Photo Kat Closon ©

A few days ago, someone asked me if I still write a blog. I was pretty much ready to ask why someone I knew (and loved) would not have seen a single post from me in the whole of the last calendar year. I wondered if it might be that it’s just the algorithm that keeps posts from alleged communists, socialists and other regular folk nicely hidden away and instead shows posts designed to create more division and hate. After all, socials have come a long way since the early 2000s when people wanted a way of staying in touch with the people they had met in strange and far-away lands and on steamy Jozi evenings following South Africa’s transition from white supremacy rule to the current version of democracy.

But I kept my big mouth shut about all that and instead politely replied that I did and left it there. I’ve no reason to wonder further about that. We each choose what we choose and mostly we’re doing so for reasons far beyond our own meagre understanding. The ability to reflect on our choices, our thoughts, our actions, our very self is not embedded into our socialisation the way ready answers are. If you listen carefully to conversations between people; after a while you could write a script for pretty much any conversation people are having. It’s all standard text anyway. The patterns of communicating have become rather fixed and this hollywood dialogue is the norm. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about the death of a parent, the birth of a child, teenage angst, a car accident, work-life or sport; in fact pick a subject and the standard texts for that subject and the people you’re having the alleged conversation with are conveniently right there. Say your part and the other person or people will say their part. The exchange will occur as per the script and prescripts of your social class, age and gender.

Sure, you can step out of the regular plastic-pattern script but you do so at your own risk and often at some considerable cost. When an opinion is sought, it’s rare that what is desired is anything more than the thoughts of the person asking. They just want to hear it come out of your mouth. With some paraphrasing and maybe a little bit of praise gently folded in. That is the standard script. Of course, you could actually share what you think, what you know, what you feel, what you have spent hours, days and maybe even years grappling with to be able to provide insight, stimulate thought, push the weight of the standard text off both of you and breathe in the fresh air of creativity and freedom.

In some instances that effort of liberating yourself and the other person from the anchors of these prescripts is welcomed and you both learn from the experience. You both grow, you break, you unmake and remake your thoughts and the way you process them. You grapple and glimpse shards of light and deep chasms in your own minds and thinking. You fall face first and smack yourself on the head for having sat in the dark for so long. You enter the rarefied air of a long walk through pristine forests. You float in the clear cool sea, rising and falling effortlessly in the gentle swell and your mind swells with clarity of thought. Your heart grows to fit all the new stuff that flows into, around and out of it. You radiate positive energy and relish where you are. Uncertain, grappling with thoughts and feelings that have been hidden away. You burst open with the sheer sense of what might be possible for you, what you’re talking about and Life itself. Like a snake, you moult but from the inside and the shield of standard text you’ve carried is left to wither away slowly in the heat of a Karoo summer.

On a more practical level, you might also find yourself with some actual clarity about the thing you’ve asked for feedback on. Unfortunately that clarity also comes at a cost. The price is your own certainty about what you’re doing. How what you know has brought you so far, this pinnacle of achievement and a past littered with similar accolades. You’ll have to leave all that you did in the past at the doorway into the new realm of possibility. Your high honours don’t work here, they’re of no value amongst people who have little need. So if you managed that, you’d be left with you — shorn of status, access, wealth, privilege, fame and all the other standard markers of success, of value, of how you see your worth and how your worth is seen and celebrated in the standard texts we’re properly socialised into. You’ll have to take off your mask and come down off the pedestal you’ve been installed on.

Being free to think without the life jackets of standard texts and ready-made questions and their neatly packaged answers is no easy task. You’re going to bump up against them at every corner. In so many ways and every place you find yourself. They will silently intrude into your quiet moments and you’ll hear them shouted across the weekend braai. They’re the stuff of everyday life, and your special treats and harmless fun and your bucket-list. It’s your entire existence as it happens every day and likely it goes back up and down your ancestral line too. Being able to see these limitations in your being and functioning does not make you better as hollywood standard texts would have you believe. See how easily that derision came to mind?

It regularly just sets you back on your bare feet, on the stony ground of Life. It places you on the lowest rung of being. Prompts you into being aware of how much you labour under, of how much we still have to see about how we are made into what we are not and how we can unmake ourselves into being again.

As Johann Hari reminded us at the start of this calendar year, the current social (mis)order is not an accident. It is rooted in the deliberate breaking down of our ability to pay attention. To ourselves, to our thoughts, our feelings and our way of connecting with or disconnecting from people that might have different physical features, political opinions, gender, nationality or tastes in food, from our own. This process has put us on a hamster wheel that allows little to no space for pause from the ongoing and constant stimulation. It demands instant and ready responses to everything, all of the time.

It allows for nothing to be gained over time. It is based on the lie that everything is available, all of the time. For a price. And that price is not just the valueless currencies (and the ponzi schemes of their crypto variations) but on your attention and it’s span. It’s costing you the space and time to sit quietly and exist without having to report it to a known or anonymous publics. It is a constant buzzing in the liminal spaces of your mind where the magic happens that allows us to invent not just thoughts but where we store and go to enjoy our freedoms. The always-on and ever-ready with standard text questions, answers and whole dialogues has impinged on the spaces sacred to our intrinsic human wellbeing. It has taken up space and put down roots and left unchecked it will soon smother the host.

So let me thank you for staying with me and getting this far. The rest of the path from hereon is all yours. I wish you stillness, time, space and nothingness.

Hollywood Dialogues was inspired by observing the dramadey of human interactions circa 2022 AD, in a little village on the east coast of the holy land.

© Jesh Baker, 2022

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Comms practitioner, aspirant writer and absent-minded baker at #WakeAndBake

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Oppi Stoep

Comms practitioner, aspirant writer and absent-minded baker at #WakeAndBake