On Viewing People

As a young child growing up, the world is new, and that’s probably the closest most people will ever be to seeing things how they truly are in an objective – as opposed to subjective – sense. That is not to say they will not view things in a subjective sense, only that this is as close as they will be to both the objective perspective and to the unbiased perspective. I refer specifically to the earliest of ages, before one has enough experience to have an opinion.

As you age, your vision changes. Mine certainly did. I think the most noticeable pivoting point was the teenage years, when I went from considering others as merely annoying peers to objects of attraction. My body, now filled with what one might consider “foreign” (as in, psychologically unfamiliar) chemicals, was now drawn to the opposite sex.

Speaking to my followers, just for clarification, I suppose I should mention – since I haven’t done so yet on this blog – that I’m a male. You guessed that a long time ago, right?

Like all youngsters, I struggled with these emotions and tainted perspective. No one ever trained my how to properly handle these emotions or what to do with this view. I had to wait several years and learn from direct experience before the answers would finally drop into my lap in the form of a book called “Theology of the Body”, composed by the late Pope John Paul II. The more I read it, the more my view of things was corrected. Some things I still had to learn from experience – because I’m that kind of learner, I guess – but what I learned in those sermons by the pope laid the foundation for a fundamentally and completely different view of humans.

I’m going to jump the gun and say that it’s amazing how much more I appreciate people than when I began. It’s not like I ever hated all people – some people are good, some are bad, and most I didn’t care about. But I’m an introvert. I get my energy from being alone. And yet, now that I understand people, it’s become very difficult to live alone.

Okay, so now that I’ve spoiled you with the result, let me give you everything the pope said in a nutshell:

You are a gift.

The pope explained what that means in so many words, and in a very… um… sophisticated manner, I might add. But the way he explains it is so beautiful when it finally makes sense, once you get passed his $100 words. Of course, if he didn’t explain it the way he did, someone might misinterpret what he meant as you might misinterpret what I mean. But I know you probably would prefer the abridged version.

So what does it mean to be a “gift”. It means simply, you are not meant for yourself. You are meant to be given. But the blessed thing is that you choose to be given. This nature of being a gift is called the “spousal meaning of the body”, using “spousal” for obvious reasons. Man and women were made by God as complimentary beings to be given to each other (leading to a detailed analysis of why adultery and homosexuality are sins). As such, they are tasked with defending the inherent dignity in each other, given to them by God.

This point in particular I want to focus on, namely, the defense of the inherent dignity in man. A person, created by God is given dignity by Him. However, this dignity is damaged when a person is viewed as a object for satisfaction of the other (whether by sex, as in lust, or as some form of entertainment, etc.). This dignity is defended by clothing, since clothes are intended to avert the eyes from the most intimate parts of a human. However, one’s dignity is still at risk of being damaged if the clothing does not perform its primary function, as is the case with bikinis and scanty clothing.

In particular, this dignity is maintained by viewing the person for who they are. And it is this specific point I want to focus on the most. How do you view a person for who they are? To do this, you have to be aware of the entirety of their being. This means everything, their body, their mind, their soul, and especially their equality with you. Concerning our humanity (or inheritance thereof), we are not above or below each other, even if we all differ in appearance and intelligence or other features. There are no “super humans”.

I don’t know what you see when you look at a car, but what I see is something that I understand the reality of even if I don’t understand its totality. This is essentially what I’m talking about with respect to seeing people, but the analogy is easier with vehicles because with vehicles, people tend to have more control over how they view a vehicle. I want you to comprehend what I mean by “understand the reality”. When I see a vehicle, I see the external shape (obviously), and there is usually some glimpse of the interior, but not always. I am aware of not just the interior, but its engine, its, chassis, and its limited existence, namely, an existence solely in the physical universe. Furthermore, and on top of all of this, I am aware of its totality and meaning as a whole. It is a car, a means of transportation, not merely another pile of atoms. Certainly the pile of atoms is close to what I call its objective meaning, but that is not the subjective meaning. Its subjective meaning is important because of those who hold to that subjective meaning.

The subjective meaning of the car itself isn’t a big deal as I’m making it sound. That’s because the subjective meaning is established by humans, or more precisely, something that cannot inherently add some significance in an absolute or objective sense. Humans die, and as soon as they die, so does the meaning. But that’s a very long tangent I don’t want to get on. The point is, you don’t have to be concerned with viewing the car in its totality.

However, you do need to consider the entirety of the human being. Why is this important? Because God said so, first, but second, because of who you are. And it turns out that when you view the human in their totality, they become much more of a beautiful thing.

Viewing a human in their totality is the exact opposite of reducing them to an object merely for one’s satisfaction, and in reality, the latter actually has a startling consequence. The more you treat someone as a object for your personal satisfaction, the less satisfying they become. I can attest to this in my own life, but I think some stats are more suitable. For example, the likelihood of people being divorced after having divorced once shoots through the roof. Why? Because the people in the relationship were only using each other for their own pleasure, and once that pleasure was gone and frustration set in, they moved on to someone else. This cycle keeps repeating with each successive individual becoming less satisfying. Obviously, this isn’t the reason for all divorce, and obviously that’s one reason why the second divorce rate isn’t 100%. Still, it’s something to think about. I could also talk about how people go from bad relationship to bad relationship, but that’s another long tangent.

As a parting piece of wisdom for this section, let me just say that men who treat women like objects of sex have the most trouble with women and complain about women being too hard to understand. Women aren’t hard to understand when you see them as an equal.

Men, whose duty, as John Paul II points out, is to defend the relationship – and consequently the dignity of them and their spouse – perhaps struggle the most in this respect, and the area I think it most shows is in art and pornography. I’m not going to talk about the latter – there’s enough complaint about that – but the former is something I never quite understood the limitations of, although I might have back in the day when I had an eye for seeing things as black and white as they probably are.

Art and the defense of human dignity have always been in a kind of tricky dance where, at least these days, the forbidden line is crossed all too often. My initial reaction is to draw the line at modesty and decency and say that the pose of the subject should not be sexually enticing or tempting one to do evil. But here’s where John Paul makes observations that go far deeper. He points out that the totality of the human, in their dignity as a human and of their being a gift, must be invoked by the art. That is, when you see the art, you should sense the dignity of a human. This is difficult to do as an artist, but it has certainly been done, as you can see in works like, “The Thinker”.

“The Thinker”, by Auguste Rodin, photo by Daniel Stockman

Since the art ought to invite a sense of totality of the human, art that obscures that in any way can have a detrimental effect on establishing a culture of chastity. In more practical terms, it means we won’t understand ourselves as much.

No; reading that didn’t all of a sudden make me not appreciate the arts. Actually, it explained a feeling I had been having for awhile.

I happen to enjoy writing stories and watching anime, as you may know from reading this blog. However, I started to notice that, with my growing understanding of real people and my seeking of them, I have simultaneously become more apathetic towards stories and anime. I still enjoy them, but in a way, I would much rather spend an evening with a friend than watching an anime. Of course, if you have friends like I do, the few things you may have in common may include watching anime – but still! There’s something profound and special about a genuine relationship where the two people involved have a real understanding of each other. It is much easier to consider someone a friend when you see them as an equal and have an understanding of who they are.

This brings us in a loop back to relationships between men and women. I notice many people want the person they will marry to simply fall out of the sky like an angel and be that way through life. While I can see this has a selfish component – specifically that of having the angel be your slave – it misses the point of being friends. I guess for many people, friends aren’t marriage material because you know them. You have already explored them to the extent that you think you know who they are and consequently, you have reasons why you wouldn’t marry them, such as knowing their faults or having explored them to the point where they are no longer interesting. You never really know someone until you get married, but by then, it’s too late to back out.

And this brings the loop back around to anime and stories, where the topic is often shallow romance. I find that in many anime, the romance is some harem where one male is surrounded by some odd number of generic female characters.

I dislike generic people for several reasons. Off topic reasons: 1) Whoever drew them is too lazy to create a unique design. 2) I have a hard time distinguishing between similar characters. On topic reason: 3) They don’t allow you to establish a unique character. Most cases, the character can only be depicted by their hair and eye colors and their height. Oh, and if they are really generic, their hair and clothes differentiate them from the crowd. While this may be easy for an animator, and understandable for background characters, there should be more care taken in presenting the human characters who bear the human dignity most at risk from the viewing of the audience.

What’s also notable is that of the question of anonymity. This occurs in both pornography and in the arts – audiovisual, writing, etc. – such that the subject in question is unknown. In the case of anime, no real person has their dignity directly attacked. Rather, it is an indirect attack on them, but it is a direct attack on the dignity of humans in general if such characters – however generic or precise they are drawn – do not have their dignity preserved. In the case of pornography, the real person’s face may be obscured, but they have nevertheless been exposed and the view of their most intimate parts made, as it were, property of culture, subject to an unknown reception (i.e. we don’t know how each person that sees it is going to view it).

That all said, I feel differently when I go to view art on places like DeviantArt and Pixiv. Since I enjoy the art on Pixiv more, I often look there for images of people. However, considering that the depictions of people are so generic, it is difficult for me to justify seeking them since humanity has been depicted as a subject for entertainment without being depicted in its entirety.

Is it wrong to draw people? No. Is it wrong to draw people like anime characters? No, probably not. But it seems so shallow now. It goes to show one very important fact: pursuing something tangible as an end in itself is not satisfying.

Is it wrong to enjoy the beauty of people? No. People look beautiful because God made people look beautiful to each other. That beauty ought to be appreciated. However, that beauty is not a end in itself, and to view it that way while skipping the rest of the humanity not only disregards their dignity, it misses most of what there is to enjoy about the human.

I want to be able to look at people going down the road and see them for all they are. To me, that is similar to them all being my friends and I knowing the name of everyone I meet on the street. That scale for this perspective is hard to attain, but it’s not so bad now that I have a better idea of where I’m going. There’s a better world, even just in having the right perspective on things, and if this is just a fraction of it, how much better the rest will be is something I definitely look forward to discovering. It may have been killing my motivation to write fiction, but it’s not like that won’t be replaced by the real deal. Why write, why watch TV, why wish for a fantasy land when you understand reality and can feel the joy of living life?

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About chronologicaldot

Just a Christ-centered, train-loving, computer geek.
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