I used to have a Virginia Woolf quote attached to this blog. It was from my favourite book of hers, The Waves, and since I can't seem to find the book this very second, I have to paraphrase: it is only through the illumination of the eyes of others that we can see ourselves. I got to thinking about this after I finished reading Siri Hustvedt's The Shaking Woman the other day. It seems that there is some biological foundation to Woolf's claim.
I wonder whether this tendency to copy could be at the heart of our body image issues. After we learn to think of ourselves as subjects, we soon learn to abstract, objectify and generalize. We begin to create and re-create memories once we learn to speak. We cut and paste familiar words, environments, norms and people in order to create meanings for ourselves. And we keep doing it. Hustvedt says that "[a]ll meaning is generated through repetition." However we see ourselves and our bodies, it is a mash-up of what we have learned, chosen and keep choosing every day.
I know I am simplifying something very complex here, but if meaning is something we make and create for ourselves, and if human beings have free will, we should be able to create the very mental framework of the world we inhabit. Essentially our societies are made of individuals. Group dynamics and the development of societal norms and practices are tough to pin down, and a lot of times these things seem to exist somewhere beyond our grasp. I don't believe this is the case though.
My guess is that what is lost is the voice of "I", the subject. Our positivist, science-loving minds have tended to disregard our own personal narratives for a long time. Maybe we just stopped listening to our own voices at some point because there was something out there that seemed so much more meaningful. One human being is so small, so fragile in the big framework of our universe. We have, at some point in time, begun to reject "I", and what "I" has to say. We easily forget that essentially, without "I", there'd be no meaning. Maybe that is why I love the blogosphere. We are all "I"s, and we all have things to say. We are not creating new science here, but I do think we are changing the way we see ourselves and each other. We have the right to create narratives in order to make sense of the world. And not just create, but also to say them out loud.
Now for something completely different: I feel awful for not having had the time to visit people's blogs recently. I just wanted to give a shout-out to all of my lovely readers. You mean the world to me! And then to a brief Q&A: