- ROPES Literary Journal (2017) – 25th Edition.
-Sales & Marketing.
- Stories In The Stars (2016) – NUI Galway Writers’ Society publication.
-Sales & Marketing.
As I’m sure you all know already, the referendum for same sex marriage in Ireland passed on Saturday 23rd of May 2015. It was such a momentous occasion and a great feeling of elation spread through the country.
I was so happy, not only for myself but for the thousands of LGBT individuals throughout the country (and world), as well as their friends and families. It was such a long and difficult campaign, and emotions were high throughout. But I’m so proud of the result and I’m glad that I was alive to see and be part of an historic occasion. It really felt like we changed history, and I’m so proud to be Irish because of what we as a nation accomplished. Not only do we become one of the countries that allows same sex marriage, but we are the first country to establish same sex marriage by popular vote!
I was following the results throughout the day as each constituency gave their results. The Yes side won with a whopping 1,201,607 votes (62.07%). All but 1 constituency (of 43) voted in favour of same sex marriage. That constituency was Roscommon-South Leitrim which is a rural area. There was some negativity about them being the only one not to vote in favour of it but in fairness it was only by a 3% margin so there was still great support for it in that area.
When I watched the results coming in I was so teary eyed because it was so great to see people standing up for equality and human rights. The scenes in Dublin were just amazing to see. I went out that night with some of my friends to celebrate and it was a great feeling to just enjoy the momentous event. A brilliant occasion to witness and be part of.
A few months ago I was complaining about how my wisdom tooth was causing me pain. Well after a few days the pain died down so I just said I’d leave it. I mean I did go to my dentist to get X-rays, and basically my wisdom teeth are growing horizontally to my other teeth and their pushing against them. It looks so sore (and worse than the picture above! :L ) I’m on a long waiting list to get it pulled out in the University Hospital Limerick (that way I get if for free, or at least a VERY reduced price).
Anyway, so it’s flaring up again and the pain… It’s not even my gum, it’s my jaw. I can’t open it wide. I mean I can open it enough to eat, drink and clean my teeth, etc. But if I want to yawn, there’s no way I can stretch my mouth because it’s way too sore. Hopefully it either fades or I can get it pulled out in the hospital. I just have to deal with it for the moment! 😛
From this moment forward I solemnly swear to live.
I’m going to do something.
I’m going to be someone.
I’m going to be happy.
I’m going to laugh.
I’m going to write.
I’m going to dream.
I’m going to smile.
I’m going to breathe.
I’m going to feel.
I’m going to read.
I’m going to love.
I’m going to walk.
I’m going to see.
I’m going to share.
I’m going to hear.
I’m going to play.
I’m going to live.
Existentialism is a pretty big term to try and coin but basically is revolves around the experiences of the individual in the universe. It is a study of the meaning we give to our lives and the meaning we give to the world. These things in and of themselves have no inherent meaning but only exist in relation to people, society and ourselves.
Existentialism has links to Semiotics which is the study of meaning through linguistics and language. We see the world through the language we use, which can sometimes limit our outlook. The meaning we give the world is relative to the words we use. For example, we use the word table to describe something tan object we put things on and more than often has 4 legs and is made of wood. If this object is made of metal or plastic we still call it a table. If we use it to place books on or eat dinner it’s still called a table. Basically, we as society have all agreed that this object be called a table. That’s the meaning we give to the word “table.” But it is not a “table” in and of itself, it only has that meaning because we have all made that agreement. I can call the object a “hs3 xzzz” and say that that’s what I use to eat dinner on and it would be perfectly credible because that’s the meaning I give to “hs3 xzzz.” Obviously that jumble of letters and numbers means nothing but it shows how meaning is relative and is only based on societal convention.
This leads us onto societal expectations. We are all expected to abide to these non-written agreements and laws like don’t murder and do go to school. These aren’t laws of nature but laws society has agreed upon. They are so ingrained that we don’t question them and they become norms. Obviously “don’t murder” is a very extreme case and people shouldn’t question that law but things like “women should stay at home” was a perfectly reasonable norm to question otherwise we wouldn’t have gender equality, etc. Back in the early 20th century this would seem a crazy thing to revolt against but we can now say it was a just thing to have revolutionised society.
Immanuel Kant notes that our understanding and experiences of the world come from Rationalism & Empiricism. Rationalism is what we learn from raw data and Empiricism is what we learn from our experiences. For example through rationality we learn that touching a hot stove is dangerous because we’ll get burned. It is something we are told. Whereas if we touch a hot stove, empirically we learn that it is dangerous because we can remember the pain of the burn from touching it. It has more to do with the senses and our experiences. These two ideas can be used together but sometimes they may clash.
When we question the meaning of our existence, society or experiences, this is known as existential crisis. This thought process may cause depression, frustration, clarity or increased conviction. It is important to know the truth in life and not live by external forces such as society.
Friedrich Nietzsche believed that there is no objective truth and no pure knowledge in the universe. It is all subjective and agreed upon by people and society. It provides stability in an otherwise chaotic world. This comforts people in the random, meaninglessness of the universe. By questioning this system we can change our lives and society. It will allow us to open our eyes up to man made constructs and systems which restrict and oppress us.
This meaninglessness is recognised in the philosophy of Absurdism. It describes the lack of meaning in the universe and in anything throughout the universe. In people’s search for the truth, they may come to this conclusion of meaninglessness. Sometimes people may go through three of them in stages or experience all of them or just one. Some responses to this realisation are:
With the 2nd, the individual is depressed because their understanding of the world is different from what society portrays the world to be and what society expects of the individual. The inherent lack of meaning may also be too chaotic than they can handle.
With the 3rd, the individual is able to ignore societal constructivism and live their life contently by providing their own meaning to the world.
With the 1st, there is no emotional response. It may lead to extreme emotional deadness and passiveness. This may be a more extreme case of the 2nd response. This meaninglessness may make it hard to express emotions. I will discuss this further using texts where characters have this response.
L’Étranger – Albert Camus (1942)
I read this as part of a French Literature module. It was tough understanding the concepts in French, but I think I got the gist of it.The novel follows the tale of a man named Mersault. He shows many signs of emotional detachment and passivity.
At the beginning of the novel, he is attending his mother’s funeral and appears quite unemotional. It doesn’t cry and is seen smoking and drinking coffee by the coffin. Later on in the novel, he ends up shooting and killing a man with whom his friend had fought with. Again he appears apathetic about the murder and feels nothing. He is of course detained in prison and is passive throughout his time there. He does not show remorse or regret. During the time up to his execution, he remains unfazed and accepts his fate. This character portrayal is a perfect example of a person’s unemotional response towards the universe. Although his actions are without a doubt questionable, it shows us how some times people are indifferent towards the world, norms and laws.
Melancholia – Lars von Trier (2011)
An absolute masterpiece in my opinion. It follows the story of group of characters and their responses to a planet that is on an impact with Earth. Justine (Kirsten Dunst) appears unaffected by any of the events throughout the film.
The film begins on Justine’s wedding day. She disappears from the party on numerous occasions. She appears unhappy. At one instance her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is annoyed by her behaviour and Justine says “I smile and I smile.” To this Claire tells her she’s lying. These lines have a certain truth in the world at large. Some individuals pretend to be alright or happy when in fact they are suffering in society. Society’s expects people to be strong and suffer in silence when in fact there’s nothing wrong with not being happy or not being “ok.” People put on a face so that they won’t be seen differently. Justine later dismisses her new husband when he begins to make love to her. She walks down to the golf course and has sex with another man in a bunker.
In the 2nd act, the planet’s impact is nearing and the characters responses are portrayed dynamically. Justine is unaffected and detached by the imminent destruction of Earth. Claire is distraught and afraid. Claire’s husband is at first confident that the planet will pass by the Earth but when he realises it will in fact impact, he commits suicide. With the collision coming closer, Claire finally accepts her impending death. She wants some comfort from her sister and wishes to do one last thing with her son and Justine. She wants to drink wine on the terrace and sing a song. Justine responds to this by saying, “You know what I think of your plan? I think it’s a piece of shit.” It’s extremely condescending and harsh but it’s from the point of view of someone who is unafraid and is apathetic towards a fearful person. Justine is calm in the face of her death. An amazing scene is when Justine basks naked by a river at night in the light of the planet Melancholia. What makes this epic is the fact that she is giving herself fulling to oncoming planet. It’s like she’s accepting her fate and her death. She gives herself to the universe and it’s endless oblivion. And she is ok with this because she believes it all means nothing.
Lost in Translation – Sofia Cappola (2003)
A film about culture shock and isolation. It shows how individuals can have unemotional responses towards certain things while in a foreign culture. Bob Harris (Bill Murray) is an actor who is doing an endorsement in Tokyo and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) is with her husband while he has a photography gig.
Bob is overwhelmed by the Japanese culture and doesn’t understand a lot that’s going on. Charlotte spends some time alone because her husband is working. One day she decides to go explore. A really great quote she says when she’s talking to her friend on the phone is, “I went to this shrine today and there were these monks and they were chanting and I didn’t feel anything.” She doesn’t find any meaning in her trip to the temple. Her own experiences are different from that of society’s expectations. This fact upsets her as she feels she should have a particular emotional response but in fact feels nothing.
Of course these characters aren’t entirely immersed in Absurdism, it’s more like situational or momentary absurdism experienced through culture shock.
Skins – Effy Stonem (2007-2010, 2013)
One of the best characters ever created played by Kaya Scodelario. Also one of the most messed up. She is extremely damaged because everything around her is always fucked up. She is continuously destructive because the universe seems to be against her. Her brother gets knocked down, her boyfriend dies, she becomes depressed. In the final series she seems to have her stuff together. She has a good job and lives with Naomi. Naomi is diagnosed with cancer and Effy is arrested for insider trading. As she is driven away in a police car, she gives her famous “Effy smile.” It’s a smile that shows she knows the truth. She knows that no matter how hard she tries and how good her life is, there will always be something that comes along and messes up her life. Because of this Effy believes there’s no point in feeling anything towards the world or life, because the universe is against her and will ultimately come along and fuck things up.
I’ve been thinking about these concepts for a while now. And after a bit of thought and research, I’ve come up with a few ideas to throw out into the world.
So the first of these is how humans, as individuals, are seemingly connected in some way. We live our own lives but our paths cross with others and we interact with hundreds of people a day. I mean I’ll get into destiny vs random events later. But for now let’s think about how we’re connected.
I’m going to use some texts as examples, the first being David Mitchell’s debut novel Ghostwritten (1999).This novel has similarities to his probably more famous Cloud Atlas (2004). The former has more literal interconnectivity as we can strongly assume that all of the events in the book take place in or around the same time era, whereas in the latter the 6 stories span from the mid 19th century to somewhere far in the distant future. So hear the interconnectivity is more metaphorical or in terms of parallel time periods occurring simultaneously. But I’ll get into that some other time.
But for now, we’ll discuss Ghostwritten. This text is about individual stories that are tied together by their characters having interactions or actions that affect others. I’ll give an example that sounds very complex out of context but bare with me. Ok, so on the Holy Mountain in China (Part 4 of the Novel), a woman is raped and her illegitimate daughter (when she gets older) goes to work in Hong Kong to provide money. Here (Part 3) she works as a maid for a guy who she has an affair with. Evidently, the guy’s wife leaves him and asks for her chair to be sent to her home in London. So in London (Part 7) this new guy has just slept with the wife who left her husband in Part 3. The morning after they are chatting and a delivery man delivers the chair the her house. She asks him to leave and on his way to somewhere else he saves a woman from being hit by a taxi, saving her life. The woman then hops into a taxi to the airport. Afterwards in Cape Clear Island, Ireland (Part 8) it is revealed that this woman is a scientist and has rare knowledge of war technology and for ethical reasons decides not to give her knowledge to the US Government and hides out in a remote island. Eventually she is found by the officials and her knowledge is used in technology which can arguably be seen in Okinawa, US & Tokyo (Parts 1,9,10). So it’s literally a domino effect. Each occurrence triggered an event. There are a lot more connections and other concepts throughout the novel. This is just one that I chose.
I personally love this idea of connectivity. Seemingly insignificant acts can have major consequences. These ideas do raise the question of destiny vs free will and I believe in a bit of both. I believe that things are gonna work out but I think you have to put a lot of effort in shaping your future as well. I don’t think all of our futures are mapped out for us but it’s hard to believe that everything is total consequence. I think the universe does bring people together for certain reasons. I mean two of my cousins were travelling on world trips (independently of each other) and they just happened to meet each other on the same train somewhere in Australia I think. They didn’t even know that the other was travelling. Like that’s amazing right?
This leads me on to Human Proximity in urban areas. This is a more everyday experience that I think we can all relate to in any town or city. So first just visualise yourself walking down any street in any town. As you pass people, you’re obviously going to pass strangers. You’re obviously not going to interact with every person you pass. So that begs the question, what if you have similar interests with someone you pass? It could be totally random or is it the universe bringing you two together? This is a very interesting thing to think about. It may also be unfortunate. Just say you’re walking with your headphones on. You’re listening to your favourite album or song or band. Imagine the person that walks past you is listening to the exact same thing or they have similar interests to you. Now imagine you were some divine creature looking from above the street and you could see that these two people were unknowingly connecting on some macro sociological level. Doesn’t that just blow your mind? An unknowing spiritual connection with someone you just passed. It’s really unfortunate as well though, because you may never see that person again. And they might’ve been someone you could’ve really gotten along with! There are a few things which allow recognition of similar interests and they are for example Jerseys, band T-shirts, wrist bands. They allow a silent connection and rapport with a passer-by.
I’ve lost most of you, haven’t I? If you’re still a bit confused, what I think may settle your confusion is the film The Adjustment Bureau (2011). Pretty good film. Great concept, not the best in terms of execution but all round good film. It follows similar themes of fate vs free will. And the whole individual paths and intersection theme. Watch it, you’ll get what I’m squabbling about!
So yeah, that’s my two cents on Interconnectivity. Final thoughts, I believe that we all have lasting effects on the people we meet, even if they seem insignificant. But you know, the future is yours to take!