22 January 2018: An evening with the Women Writing Lab Berlin takes the focus of the evening on how we perceive the ‘other’. How do we acknowledge the impact of our fellow humans around us, when we do not often see or define their influence on our daily life. We pass through our days, in and out of conversation with people, we get caught in constant self-evaluation in relation to the people around us. But who are the people?
Ten women gathered around a restaurant table. Ten writers gathered around a table. Ten notebooks slowly revealed their shy pages and modest introductions were made. Ten writers spoke about their relationship with writing. All ten writers refrained from calling themselves, writers. All ten writers are in fact, writers.
Perhaps without context, this won’t make any sense. Perhaps if you know that even if I gave you a context, like we all had, the diversity of expression, native languages and interpretations varied so much the origin of the ideas no longer mattered.
So. Who are the people?
The mass of familiar faces, shapes and strides that remind me I belong to a species, my experience is unoriginal, my genetics just different enough to make me an individual. I’ve avoided living among the people until now. The people exhaust me with their relentless thirst, their hungering, seeking. Their hunger reminds me of my own. I see the eyes glancing, scrolling, children singing in Russsian on the tram. Russian sounds so gentle when sung by children. I get home and feel every human I’ve passed in the street has chipped a part of me off like a stone dropped into an enamel bath. A day in the city leaves me feeling grazed by eyes who scraped over my exterior unconsciously throughout the day. This city life, it’s just an experiment. I feel all of the people return to their homes with a splinter of my mind embedded under their flesh. Is it because they looked at me, or because I looked at them? I think about nearly everyone I meet.
The people are little more than a pliable sculpture. Ever moulded by the fingertips of each other. We make each other and yet we’re all too self-doubting to call ourselves artists. The people make each other. Not with agency, not with conscious ownership of their creative power. Instead, we make each other in the outdated stereotype of an artist, there is still so much destructive energy, so much making with apathy, self-limitation. Berlin reminds me of a collective artistic unravelling.
Imagine if the people admitted we all make each other, imagine if our relationships were gallery treasures of a lifetime of co-creation. The people. I’ve spent more time watching them, writing about them, avoiding them, and holding them to high standards I have failed to meet myself than I have spent trusting them, exploring with them, admitting my sameness to them.
In my dreams, I’m forced to interact with the people. I can lucidly tell myself, or declare it to the characters in my dreams “You’re all a part of me!”. These people in my dreams, they represent something within me. I wake to wonder if I knew what they represented when I met them. People. People are concepts with legs, concepts I basically make up. Basically just a story with shaved limbs and a vintage jacket walking a french bulldog; holding another buff stories hand, only this story is wearing jeans so tight I wonder if he can breathe.
The thing I know about the people is I’ll never really know them. They’ll always be the next chapter shaped by my past experience. My experiential literacy. A community is a choose-your-own-adventure-story book, only it frightens me I don’t have enough life to read all the options, and then choose to re-read my favourite one.
I’m still working out if people frighten me because I only see myself in them, or if I’m yet to admit I’m too self-absorbed to confront something truly different to myself.
Ten different, beautiful answers were shared and appreciated with restaurant appropriate applause and encouraging smiles. Until the next Women Writing Lab Berlin…