DivisionIt was the first day of the flooding in parts of Trinidad and Tobago. I had been keeping up to date on things as best I could since I no longer have the 4×4 to roll in with. It was really bad in some areas, so I went out to handle some errands close to home and get back so I wouldn’t be unnecessarily on the road.

I stopped at the local Starbucks, walking in on a scene of some children at the register looking awkward.  Suddenly, a woman rushes in front of me, flustered, handing over some cash and complaining about her bank loudly. That her bank had sent out a notice earlier through social media that their network was out of service because of the flooding hadn’t made it into her busy life.

She was embarrassed and inconvenienced because her card didn’t work. She continued complaining about the bank to the point where it was interfering with me moving on with my life, so I gently made my presence known by waving my cash toward the register. She moved on with her children, awaiting their drinks.

Meanwhile, not far away, people had slept on the roofs of flooded homes. Not far away, people had lost the things that they had worked hard to get. Supplies were just beginning to get in from people not unlike her, though perhaps squawking less.

A snap judgement would have defined her as someone divorced of the reality of the flooding, but that would have dismissed the children in uniforms. I could question why schoolchildren needed Starbucks coffee, but I would be creating a prejudice from one data point – which is wrong. Maybe the woman had a hard morning. Maybe things weren’t going well, maybe the kids didn’t get breakfast. Maybe she was worried about something.

To many people there, that snap judgement would stick, perhaps unfairly, creating a division where there might not be one. Or maybe there is.

The moment sticks. We need to remember the power of moments.

The Expanding of the Canvas

Framed WallI was standing with Tony, who I’d just bought a copy of his book from at the Presentation College Reunion. I mentioned I was battling existence in my mind.

He said we writers look at the world differently and see things differently.

That’s a true statement, I think. I also think that it’s not true enough.

Our world is framed, and when I say that, I mean that your world is framed, my world is framed, and everyone else’s world is framed. There is absolutely nothing in our world that we deal with that isn’t a derived construct of our brains. All of our senses are interpreted, processed and spat out to us as reality. We know what we like and we know what we don’t like.

That physiological limitation is the first frame. We cannot experience things like magnetic waves and radio waves directly; these are things that we have interpreted into motion and sound so that we know that they exist. And all of our frames are slightly different – someone may have better vision, someone else better hearing, and someone else may be more sensitive to touch, smell… the list goes on. And how we interpret these signals, the ratio of these signals, varies our framing.

Then, when we introduce more human beings, it gets more complicated. We have sounds we agree on for language, and around the world we agree on different languages. We agree on things like what the color blue is, even though each one of us might perceive it differently, some of us more sensitive to the visual spectrum than others, but we have this agreement on what we call blue – and if you get into the finer details, you find the disagreements.

We frame our own physiological experiences to each other in the context of what we agree on. We will say that the sky is blue, even though it actually only appears to be what we all agree on as ‘blue’. And that, too, we frame – within our physiological frame. The communication frame, the ability to share things with others and have them shared with us.

Then it gets even more framed with society, with cultures and subcultures, and suddenly we’re looking at the world through shared experiences rather than as we actually see it, the phrase, ‘typing at a keyboard’ only making sense to someone who knows what a keyboard actually is.

So I don’t know that just writers see the world differently. I think we writers simply communicate more differently than others in the written sense, some of us  to expand it because we see the world differently at some level of framing and feel the need to expand the canvas within the frame. Some could argue that artists only see things that way, but that argument is typically made by artists. Scientists also have that issue.

In fact, everyone has that issue. It’s how we expand our canvases… or try to… that allows others to define us so.