Monday, November 21, 2005

Rashomon


Who and what do you see when you look at this photograph?

The photograph is of me in the 6th grade. I look happy in my headscarf and hand-me-down dress. In reality, my brother had just gone to Vietnam and I feared for his life every day. Another reality was that my father had stepped up his drinking to the point that our whole family was in turmoil. I would go to school every day frightened, not of school but of what I might return home to.

But looking at the photo now, I can almost believe that the child looking back at me is happy.

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I guess I'll know I'm over feeling sad about leaving my AOL Journal when my first thought here at Blogger is not how sad I am that I'm not posting in my AOL Journal.

Ah well. Over at my AOL Journal, I recently did an entry about "Reality," and Vince posted a one word response: RASHOMON. I'd never heard of Rashomon, but because it came from Vince, who introduced me to the excellent book, Denial of Death, I thought I should check it out.

I did a quick Internet search and found out it is the name of a movie directed by Akira Kurosawa. The term "Rashomon" has entered our vernacular to mean the unreliability of "truth." If I'd heard of the "Rashomon Effect" before, I didn't recall it, but apparently it is a common way of referring to the phenomenon of eye-witnesses having different accounts of what happened at the same event.

I rented Rashomon from our video store and watched it twice this evening, once with and once without the commentary. It is a powerful film. What struck me the most --and everyone will come away from the film with different thoughts because it's that kind of film--was the message that we come to believe the realities we create for ourselves.

The film definitely opens up a new way for me to think about my own writing. It deepened my insight into what motivates people to lie. As the film says, we all lie.

This is where someone who prizes authenticity begins to get into severe trouble, I think. If our self-concept is based on authenticity yet all human beings lie, then who are we? (Add to this the dilemma that the purpose of the artist, according to Picasso, is to lie in order to depict the truth.)

I know that I need to work at adopting a more playful orientation toward life, one taking into consideration the natural failings of human beings, my own failings. I've known this for a long time.

I believe this recognition on my part of what I need to do is why I am so drawn to the Trickster figure in mythology. That Trickster is an ornery trouble maker who turns reality upside down. The Trickster is always mixing volatile cocktails of fantasy and reality.

I highly recommend Rashomon. Thank you, Vince, for telling me about it.

Here is the original entry from AOL:

What is Reality?

What is the truth?

I'm thinking now of the writer whose self-concept depends on authenticity.

Does this describe you? It describes me.

Perhaps I'm more comfortable writing fiction than non-fiction because I worry that non-fiction has to be completely "true," detail by detail, and I drive myself mad trying to get all the details "right."

I'm finding more and more that I don't know how to tell "the truth." I only know how to tell "my truth." And in telling "my truth," I find myself constantly departing from facts and into the realm of mythology. I believe there is so much truth in myths.

A wonderful poem by Rabia al Basri explains the difficulties of writing from the heart, of writing, to, for, out of, or about the Divine source (by Divine source, I mean that mysterious place our creativity and imagination comes from):

REALITY
In love, nothing exists between heart and heart.
Speech is born out of longing,
True description from the real taste.
The one who tastes, knows;
the one who explains, lies.
How can you describe the true form of Something
In whose presence you are blotted out?
And in whose being you still exist?
And who lives as a sign for your journey?

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Human beings are unable to be honest with themselves. They cannot talk about themselves without embellishing. This script ["Rashomon"] portrays such human beings - the kind who cannot survive without lies to make them feel they are better people than they really are. It even shows this sinful need for flattering falsehood going beyond the grave - even the character who dies cannot give up his lies when he speaks to the living through a medium. Egoism is a sin the human being carries with him from birth; it it the most difficult to redeem. This film is like a strange picture scroll that is unscrolled and displayed by the ego." (from "Something Like an Autobiography" by Kurosawa)The little girl in the photo has a fire and strength in her eyes too. This is a good time to find Kurosawa- although any time is.
ggw07@aol.com

V said...

Theresa, you made something beautiful & insighful out of a one-word comment.
Thanks,
V

PS...Love the Pic!

beths front porch said...

Theresa, what a marvelous entry. I love the photographs you are using. Was that girl happy? What is the truth? Is it possible to know? The Trickster, I think, plays a valuable role for us in turning things upside down. I will look up the film, as well. --Beth

Cynthia said...

I hate to paraphrase Jack Nicholson, but we can't handle the truth! There's always going to be something that sends us into denial. There are times when we don't recognize that our perspective is just that, one vision of an occurrence. Other times, the truth is just too dangerous for us. It could shatter how we view the world. It's simply too large to handle. I see real Truth as elusive as mercury, slipping away as soon as we grasp it. The best we can hope for is the word you have chosen -- authenticity with maybe a dash of humility.

Ken Verheecke said...

Wow... all I can say is life is an amazing mystery. I don't know if I'll every understand it all. It really is a leap of faith when you think about it!

ckays1967 said...

oh I have MISSED you and I am sooooooo excited that you are back.


Now this is an assignment I will do. Maybe not right away, but I will be thinking about it this week certainly. My heart will do it whether or not my mind wants to.

redsneakz said...

I remember a quote someplace, and I think it's in one of Orson Scott Card's "Ender" books, about how the stories that we choose to tell become The Truth. It's hard to argue with objective reality - but then again, there are those of us who make ourselves look worse than others would see us, in kind of a game of false humility.

I'm glad to have found you again.
Chuck

http://redsneakz.blogspot.com

TeaGrapple said...

I am still reeling from the user agreement I had to accept to place a comment without being anonymous, but I'm glad I found your new location, and I'm still with you.

Celeste said...

The first thing I saw was your picture and I wondered why you were sad. That was what I saw in your eyes.

Madmanadhd said...

Well hello there Theresa. Home is where the hearth is..., or is it heart? Hmm both can generate warmth. Wherever you go true friends will follow, if only in thought and memory.

Your comment about the picture reminds me of a quote I often use to frame my workshops on understanding ADHD... "Only the bearer of the sack knows the burdon." a Mexican proverb. It is so easy to make assumptions, generalize, and project our emotions onto others. Another quote I heard from a symposium on poverty held at LA came from some folks locked in poverty. when asked how to help them one woman resonded, "Treat us how WE wouold like to be treated." The modorator asked, "How do we do that." the woman just laughed and said, "Ask us what we need."

Be well... play hard... laugh often.

Michael

Paul said...

If my memory serves me well, Rashomon is the title of a book of Japanese short stories. The movie was made not from the title story, but from a story called "In a Glade." If the movie is a series of accounts of a murder from various perspectives, this is definitely the case.

I believe the term "rashomon" refers to one of the gates to the city of Tokyo.

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