Tuesday, 30 December 2008

OH To Be Normal...

When I was in my teens, I noticed that some guys liked to see themselves as "outsiders" and to call themselves as such. I thought it was pretentious and had no intention of standing out as "different". Years went by while I was trying to assimilate into my social environment and find out what exactly I wanted to do with my life. Though sometimes fierce and not at all of a weak and submissive disposition, I was quite shy and had to work hard to overcome my fear of engaging in social activities. I wanted to overcome any weaknesses and so I was really pretty hard on myself. But I could never really turn into a popular person who moved around the social circles with ease and self-confidence. I was good at pretending and things did get better, but even to this day I have a fear of social demands when I haven't encountered them before. The main point, however, was that I could not change some basic characteristics about myself. I simply was "different". I suppose when I was younger I thought that I wasn't like everyone else because I came from such a dysfunctional family and had experiences of a kind that others didn't. When I started higher education and especially when I became open to spiritual thinking and symbolic painting, I had to admit that this difference was pretty fundamental.

Though I was trying to make friends I was never into any popularity games and I wasn't interested in making a statement about who I was. Why would I? Despite many questions about my life and destiny I felt I knew who I was on some deeper level. Being Finnish did probably allow me to be somewhat solitary without being looked upon as too strange, but on the other hand the social environment doesn't encourage fluent socialization so I found it very hard to make my way through the maze. Anyway, as I've gotten older and learned about other cultures, I've tried to open up a bit to some straightforward definitions of myself in public. Now I dare call myself "artist" and "dissident" without feeling funny about it. "Outsider" seems a bit young and somehow ostentatious, but I certainly am fairly alienated from the world that most people live in in the Western world.

In my radio talk I was trying to make a point of the fact that no matter how poor we are, we should have the right to be different from the norm. For me it means for instance that I can't be expected to eat like everyone else or dress like other people, and thus spend my money in the same way. When you're dependent on social aid you're expected to fit into categories that are easy to control and manage, at least potentially. When your priorities are different and you can't, for instance, go and stand in a food line (if there is any) because you truly cannot stomach the food they offer, people become defensive and figure that you can suit yourself if you rather starve. Another example was a lady who gave me links to free spyware and figured that if you're poor, you just "have" to put up with the ads that go with them. It is true that when you're poor, you usually have to do a lot of things yourself and when you don't, you have to put up with all sorts of rubbish that go along with special offers and the like. If possible, I avoid these at all costs! True enough, when I did start installing one free spyware I had to choose some stupid offers to go with it that would be filling my mail box in no time, and then had a hell of a job getting rid of the program that was bombarding me with urges to buy their products. I suspect it might even have carried some malware. I absolutely hate this sort of thing, it just creates more stress in my life. What's up with putting the knife on people's throats? There are really not many idealistic people who believe in true democracy and the freedom to pay or donate what you can in exchange for services in the world anymore and it depresses me like hell. Not that I have any answers as to how this could be rectified. Maybe if people did open up to greater altruism and find that it pays off somehow... dunno.

Well, the reporter made a big deal of the fact that I have a right to be a difficult customer at the social services instead; quite frankly I didn't really see the point of that at all but she thought it sounded cool. Oh well.

Another thing that has really disturbed me is the way the internet is "useful" for self-promotion and product-promotion. I find on spaces like Flickr, Blogcatalog and Twitter that people are very much into this idea of having as many people visit their blogs or sites as possible regardless whether these people are interested or not. "Visit mine and I'll visit yours" is a common line. I agree to some networking because obviously it's nice if people find you and enjoy what you have to offer. So reciprocicity is not all bad. It's part of being a social being. Sometimes you just have to "muster" a little bit of interest in other people. It actually often leads to surprises of a pleasant nature, as you learn new things that you didn't expect! I'm not really an introvert, rather a mixture of intro- and extrovert. To some extent, small talk is fine, though I obviously prefer that it leads to deeper issues. I mean, balance in all things, right? Interaction, not people hoarding, is what I'm trying to talk about here. And I don't want for people to visit me or follow me if they are not interested in anything other than their own traffic. Unfortunately the internet exposes and probably promotes incredibly conceited and narcissistic behaviour that really makes me sick. Either people don't care a crap about you and your ideas and only focus on their own, or they come and attack you or try and rescue you from your sordid self. Why I'm still socializing a little bit on the net is because at the moment it's my only source of social activity and every once in a while a nice person comes along who makes my day with something nice they say in sincere interaction with me. But most of the time I stay in one place only for a little while. For instance Twitter was serving some form of social purpose for a while but now I'm getting really tired of always trying to initiate some simple discussion and not getting much response back. This I wrote on a discussion thread on Blogcatalog today. People were bickering over the fact that you get grades depending on how active a Twitterist (?) you are.

"OMG, I certainly learned a lot about PEOPLE in this thread. You're all clear as water, I don't understand what you're bickering for except for some perverted (sorry!) pleasure in bickering and in being right and having the last word and all that. I'm pretty concerned about people's fascination with the internet so this was a learning lesson for me. When I first joined Twitter I thought it was the most idiotic thing; why would I want to announce that I'm going to take a crap to the whole world? Knowing that most people don't read it anyway. Then suddenly someone added me and before I knew it a whole community of followers of that particular person followed me. For a while I thought they actually wanted to get to know me. Silly me, haha. I decided ok, I need to socialize a bit because I'm really very isolated at the moment but badly burned from some forums where I got attacked. So I decided that Twitter was offering me a way of interacting breifly with people and getting some kind of social stimulation. I was trying very hard to read people's tweets without spending the whole day doing so, and I commented and asked questions to further a small discussion. I think I was basically being nice and quite normal in my interaction. But you know, after a few weeks I got fed up with being the one who was taking the initiative. Are my tweets that uninteresting and boring?? Or are people just so self-absorbed that all they care is to get their own life online for all to see (or pretend that people see it anyway?). Well, which could it be? I'm sorry (with the risk of sounding conceited!) but from what I've seen on the internet I vote for the second option. I think the internet is really a great promoter of self-importance and egotripping. Not saying everyone is that way and personally I'm still in all this to some degree because I have little else going for me socially speaking. But I can't say that my belief in humanity has improved (which is really a pity) or that I understand what ambitions are driving people to compete about how many followers they have or some grades that remind you of American highschool ideals (I'm European). Not saying that you cannot rejoice in those grades, not at all. Just that I don't personally understand the allure. I'm planning to delete anyone who follows me but never interacts with me. To me reading their tweets is REALLY a waste of my time."

Call me a bore and a different one at that, if you will. But I don't understand the fascination of competing with others or with oneself over popularity when it's not even clear that it's for real!

Artwork: "A Pile of Bricks", digital photography by author, all rights reserved 2008


  1. I find the content of your post interesting and well-thought out. But I can't just endure reading small fonts. I only have one suggestion, please enlarge your fonts so that your posts are readable. Thank you and happy new year to you.

  2. I absolutely love your artworks. They're excellent with spiritual depth.

  3. Yes, some very good ideas and opinions here. The internet truly is the world's depository of triviality and banality, and Twitter really does take the biscuit in that regard.

  4. Hi, thanks guys for reading and commenting! Thanks Kebelle for appreciating my art! I know, I also think the font is small but there doesn't seem to be any alternatives. The alternatives were "small" or "larger" but the larger one is hardly bigger than the other. On your computer you can usually enlarge everything, to the right there's the toolbar. I'm sorry, I'll see if I can still do something about it. I also find white on black a bit arduous but I liked the cooler look... Well, such is life when choices are limited (and you're too poor to buy services, lol...)

  5. Seems I had chosen the wrong font after all, well thanks for alerting me to make changes!

  6. Vivi-Mari,
    I teach children of diverse backgrounds,cultures,abilities,disabilities:) I worked very hard as a a child to "fit in." I was never concerned with popularity, I just wanted to be invisible because of how different I felt.Despite my ability to assimilate,I genuinely felt like an "outsider" but managed to skillfully hide it. I was the greatest of pretenders:)To be "different" somehow seemed negative or to be lesser or inferior. Where I teach,our school mottos are "be nice" and "celebrate differences."( Five year olds are very wise:) How simple and how true ,although individuality often requires great strength.As I have matured I realize, to be different and genuine are preferred. I have never been much of a follower, until as of late,and I absolutely failed in that regard.My journey may be slower and steadier and perhaps I will remain "invisible" to the more visible and "popular" but I will arrive, all the same. Pretending seems like a great deal of wasted energy.In the end, does it matter? You are beautiful, and yes, wonderfully unique.As an artist, I care most about my work. That will be my voice. Quality not quantity of ideas,people,and especially art.I expect little of others but I demand much of myself.Your work, Vivi-Mari is excellent and "different". Different is good. And in reference to the internet and tools such as twitter, they are useful and fascinating. They will be used and abused.People are different and so their intentions will be as well.Yes, it is a playground for adults and one hopes again for quality rather than quantity....but then we do want to "celebrate differences." Be amused rather than annoyed:)
    Happy 2009 Vivi-Mari. You are inspiring:)

  7. Thanks Jude! Yes, I can see that we have felt very much the same throughout our lives, and obviously we are not alone though in a minority. I guess if everyone really was authentic at least (different is maybe only for some who are especially sensitive to the subtle things in life) then it would indeed be easier to be amused rather than annoyed. That's well said, however knowing myself I wonder how I could arrive at greater detachment while still a witness of triviality. Perhaps it's a fault of mine, maybe a strategy of survival - I'm not sure but will think about it. I think a network of likeminded people would help, as a person who is forced to be alone most of the time little things that go on socially take on greater proportions than they should. I am definitely more laid back and fun when I have company. So maybe you're fortunate that you have your kids and your work with kids (especially small ones are so giving, I gather). I don't have a great deal of energy and I get very tired when my efforts are wasted... Maybe my new year's resolution is to avoid situations that drain me, and have the strength to eliminate elements on the internet that offer me nothing but boredom, frustrations or feelings of being drained! Thank you dear for sharing your thoughts!

  8. Jude, you said this and I wonder if you'd like to elaborate since it's all a bit mysterious to me? ;-)
    "I have never been much of a follower, until as of late,and I absolutely failed in that regard.My journey may be slower and steadier and perhaps I will remain "invisible" to the more visible and "popular" but I will arrive, all the same. "

    happy beginnings of the new year btw! :-)

  9. Vivi-Mari,
    Hmmm, a great deal to respond to...I purposely surrounded myself with children.I am fortunate to have the energy.They are a constant reminder of the promise and beauty of life... Untouched,unscathed,pure joy.It is selfish of me. They distract me from my cluttered thoughts.Isolation is a difficult thing. I just spent the day with a very dear friend who is a sculptor. She became blind and deaf(a cochlear implant makes some hearing possible), in her late 30's. Her name is Carol Saylor. She obviously values things that others take for granted.She also has fewer external "distractions." This allows her greater time to reflect, assess, perhaps even obsess. I empathize greatly with her. I have a visually impaired mother,also disabled, who has been isolated for 35 years.
    I suppose it is necessary to "trivialize" certain things and disconnect in order to survive. Someone once told me that it must be "difficult" being me because I think so much about others and their actions/reactions.I try now to conserve my energies as well by not wasting it innecessarily on persons or situations that are draining or where there is no reiprocation or authenticity.It is an ongoing process.Finally Vivi-Mari, although I don't consider myself to be a "follower", I have looked to others who I believed to be "superior" for their guidance or approval.Unfortunately,I allow myself to feel inadequate rather than inspired and lose trust in myself and my own ideas.That is solely my doing. There is an abundance of extraordinary and inspiring "minds" to assist in this journey called life.It is however not their responsibility to make me feel valued and I must keep in mind that my dreams are my own. My work this year lies within myself.I sometimes expect from others what they are unable to give.I love my life and have been very fortunate. My greatest obstacle has been with my own thoughts. I read, I search,I study but in the end there is no magic. Action, acceptance,discipline,simplicity,willingness to err,patience,forgiveness,love and letting go are my intentions for 2009. Simple right? :)It has been a pleasure "conversing" with you.

  10. Yes Jude, it's very nice to hear your thoughts because I can identify to a high degree though our destinies unfold differently as far as I know. Some of us have to live with great limitations and it can be very trying on an expansive personality, which I guess would be something I'd attribute to myself... As I have said before, I think my life's lesson is primarily about limitations. So for instance children is something I cannot relate to very well but I can imagine stuff that seems important to others. I have to make do with my three cats for comapanionship and warmth. I hope this will change. I haven't been fortunate when it comes to relationships these past few years and despite whatever people are saying I maintain that it's probably mostly for reasons of learning. Then again, we all have our psychological make up and things follow from there. But you know, I personally DO trivilize life to some extent though some people think it's out of line with who I'm supposed to be (yes yes, those voices one shouldn't pay so much heed to...). E.g. in my radio talk I really wanted to bring out the idea that beauty is nourishment for my soul and though I'm poor, it drives me insane to have to think about food all the time! It's just not me. I'm not sure, maybe I'm at some cross roads because I just can't go on like this anymore. I mean, many things aren't that bad. But some fundamental things are lacking. Like that little extra money for self-pampering, you know... the need to be out among people and feel like a decent looking woman... Seems to trivial to blog about by I am by no means always judgmental of the world as it is (and yes yes I should not be at all). In any case, being isolated or in a trap is not a good thing and it makes you very vulnerable. I hope it will change. I also hope to re-instate my social life somehow, to trust that I'm worthy of inspring company. Especially when it has come to men, I've sold myself to cheaply. Ialso need to be very careful about my resources, something an intense person like me has great trouble with. But you're right, THAT at least is up to me! At least as far as my condition allows me to control my emotional reactions.

  11. Hi!
    We are what we post. I myself don't like to be normal. kakakakaka...
    Different is better.

  12. Short and sweet lunaticg:) and well said.Different is good.
    Vivi-Mari, no one can imagine fully your thoughts and your situation. Without minimizing the gravity of your "journey",I do tend to see the opportunities rather than the obstacles. Yes, life is much easier when your basic needs are met and when your efforts are not consumed by the responsibility of paying bills.But when I "see" you, I see pure abundance and potential. You are brilliant,talented,and truly gifted in many regards:writing,art,languages.Your knowledge of philosophy and theology is vast...and so,I see extreme "wealth" when I think of Vivi-Mari. Realistically how does that translate to financial independence? If I knew I would elaborate, but I believe it can.You will find a way.
    And you do need community. Artists in general isolate themselves out of necessity to create but this often leads to "disconnection." I apologize as I am really not qualified to advise.I just know what I see and as an artist I see beauty and talent in you:)PS Cats and children are often much more manageable then men...unfortunately men are lovely:)

  13. Thanks guys. That's very sweet Jude, and certainly one of those examples of the few but really valuable exchanges that CAN happen over the internet... In a sense maybe this is some kind of answer to your thoughtful and enouraging words; I percieve of myself as much less limited than my situation. My knowledge of things is not that vast, it's probably more a matter of what I do with the knowledge I have. Even when I write blogs I feel that I should interact more with other people and books in order to have more to say, but circumstances are preventing that. I am trying to write a book and will really have to try and get the boring part done this year in order to advance in some way that is realistic for someone in my situation. I don't want to blog too much about such things as I don't want for people to get the wrong idea of me. I've gotten a bit more careful from having been burnt. So I say these things here, semi-hidden. Society can be very cruel towards those who don't meet up with the norm, and I am having to use energy to fight that. My situation is not enviable at the time being but I don't want to be pitied. I'm not looking for that, I'm looking for authentic connections and sincere support. Oh well, anyway, one can always pray for miracles. Thank you Jude for your support, it's truly beautiful and quite rare, but also much appreciated. You're obviously a wise and mature person with a sincere ability to give generously of yourself (which was really my first impression of you on your site). :-)