Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Monty Python as Self-Help, Lesson One: How NOT To Not Be Seen

Monty Python's "How Not To Be Seen" is a satire of 60s-era, government-produced educational films, which have their corollaries here in the U.S.

However, as an American, I am bound to derive a simple moral lesson from this absurdist sketch. And so I choose: Do Not Be Afraid.

OK, in all seriousness, I've been thinking about my own fear lately. Though I don't feel my life has been particularly traumatic, I've noticed how much fear has been the prevailing weather of my existence. It's mostly a matter of cultural heritage. My people are self-effacing. As Midwesterners we're accustomed to trudging out in two feet of snow to scrape off our car, and our neighbor's*--but not to sparking any form of controversy. In all situations, we keep our heads down.

I also don't doubt that being female has something to do with this. "Don't make anybody mad" has larger implications for us, as #yesallwomen has made so eloquently clear; that warning dovetails nicely with "No one cares what you have to say anyway."

So I tried to stay quiet. I really did. But then I wrote a book, and now I have to admit, I'm worried about what people will think.

Except, as Rachel Thompson reminds us powerfully, if you write through your fear instead of against it, people will thank you for your authenticity. Also, the people whose reactions you fear most may well surprise you with what they already understand and accept.

And, as Monty Python reminds us ridiculously, we're all going to die someday. More broadly, you will, in the end, be seen and (metaphorically) killed. The fact is, some people are going to dislike you no matter what you do. They won't like your hair, or your voice, or who you remind them of (possibly themselves). They won't like your role at work. In other words, by merely existing, you'll just rub some people the wrong way. As for others, perhaps you'll upset them more by your secretive, apparently withholding behavior. Why aren't you being more open with them? If you're a writer, why aren't you sharing your work?

In short, trying not to be seen is pointless and possibly even harmful in itself. So quit with the hiding, already.

*Note: I now live in California and haven't scraped off a car in nearly three decades.

1 comment:

Diane M. said...

As a new writer, the “choosing not to be afraid” lesson is a challenging one for me. Pursuing my dream to be a writer (at the age of 47) has left me feeling like an insecure teenager all over again. Finding the secure footing to come out from hiding and say, “Here I am as a writer” will take time. I’m getting there – step by step – but I never expected the path to becoming a writer to be so emotionally challenging. I’m grateful for all I’m learning and gaining, but look forward to the day when my feet are back on solid ground again.