Beauty is relative. The French writer Antoine Saint-Exupery, in his widely recognized gem of a book, The Little Prince (2000) implicitly related and evinced as much. The long running adage or cliche which proclaims, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” re-affirms the said ideology even further. What individuals regard and consider ‘beautiful’ depends on how they view or perceive things, circumstances, objects, and people.
In as much as beauty is subjective, perceptions vary just the same. I believe that as a writer, I am able to shape and influence such things as the definition of beauty, and contribute to the beauty of diversity: of thoughts, opinions, and essentially, perceptions. Every individual perceives the world differently. Each person has a different way of viewing or regarding a particular subject, circumstance, experience or issue.
Despite what advertisements, marketing, television and the rest of popular culture and society may appear to be depicting and would have us believe; people’s outlooks, perspectives, persuasions – or whatever else you may choose to call it – vary immensely, and are far from being static and uniform. Our experiences, the respective environments we grew up in, our culture, race, gender, family, schools, churches, and so on, contribute to the disparity and diversity of our collective perceptions.
In the same manner, social institutions and ‘the system’ which encompasses the extent of our being, greatly impacts both our general outlook and specific views on life and its different dimensions as well. From – as has been previously mentioned – our notion and concept of what is beautiful, to the the politics of choices, to something as trite and banal as the type of clothes which we are supposed to consider decent or shabby, and fashionable or outdated. Most of our outlook and perspectives are anchored in the standard ideologies set in society, which in turn, have been firmly etched and entrenched in our collective consciousness.
It is under this unfortunate circumstance that stereotypes, categorizations and labels are born. But it is also in the instance or existence of convenient stereotypes, categorizations and generic labels that the need to create new and alternate meanings are growing increasingly significant. Meanings and social constructs are the product of ideas born of perceptions, and perceptions are conversely influenced and shaped by the meanings and constructs which exist and is entrenched in society and the world we live in.
As a writer, I believe that I have the capacity for affecting and altering other people’s perceptions as well as my own. Writing, for me, has ceased to be confined to the simple means of communicating certain messages across. I’ve come to realize that the act of conveying sentiments, thoughts, persuasions, ideologies, and opinions across through writing has provided as much epiphanies on my part, as it probably has or will have on readers. As a writer, I have the ability to control and dictate the tone, mood, structure and content of every paper and every essay I write, fiction or otherwise.
My writing reflects my distinct personal awareness and realization, or how the hero or heroin in my story perceives, or chooses to perceive things. I’m able to convey meanings and sentiments across, and it is through these meanings that I am able to contribute to the shaping of other people’s perceptions and awareness. The greater question I ask myself in turn is, what type of influence am I willing or supposed to imbibe in other people’s consciousness?
I can choose to write, for example, in an optimistic manner, and speak of the world and its beauty despite the unabating and undeniable instance of sadness, ugliness and wickedness plaguing the greater part of our realities. I may choose to leave the latter part out and focus my attention and divulgings to the pleasures and niceties afforded by existence instead. This would equip readers with an elated view, armed with the knowledge and understanding that all is well with the world, or it could perhaps sway their perceptions into thinking that such is the case, if they had been thinking otherwise.
Of course, not everybody is expected to subscribe to the said optimistic brand of ideology simply because they’ve been presented with it, but people’s perception regarding what is ‘good’ will nonetheless be affected, if not, defined. Conversely, If I was to employ a less optimistic and more cynical approach to writing and relate instances of loneliness, unhappiness, and recount all the problems plaguing mankind and the rest of the world today, I would probably be as unhappy and disheartened myself.
More importantly though, people who are going to read the extent of such a cynical and disconsolate view on mankind and existence will be affected just the same. I feel that it is somehow of great importance that I am able, or should be able to imbibe only positive influences through my writing by relating all good things in the world which people can draw inspiration from; since most distressing or depressing things present themselves in the course of everyday, as a matter of unpleasant truth which exists ever naggingly in reality, and people need not necessarily be reminded further of it.
What should be reinforced and re-affirmed instead, is the presence of goodness, kindness and happiness, however naive or juvenile that notion may appear to be, because it will ultimately mean the difference between people’s general view or outlook, and their subsequent courses of action. Perceptions matter a great deal, be it in the construction of meanings, or in the tone and sentiment which we attach to particular instance or event in our lives. How we perceive things determines how we act. Our awareness and our consciousness is of the utmost importance because it governs the rest of what constitutes our humanity.
This realization, with regards to writing and the creation or recreation of perceptions, constructs and ideas has afforded me a degree of growth, as a writer and as a human being. Perceptions do exist in non-uniformity and translates differently from one individual to the next. I believe that our familial and social background, demographics, as well as society and social institutions largely contribute to the shaping of our consciousness and awareness, which sometimes limits us to the confines of categorizations, labels and stereotypes.
However, I also believe that people are capable of changing these attitudes and perceptions towards life – in its seeming wakeful unpleasantness, and maybe even insufferable and suffocating mundanity – by affirming the fragile but unwavering instance of the opposite; of the seeming banality or miraculousness of childbirths, sunsets, puppies, ice creams, kisses, the ocean, and every wonderful thing which constitutes goodness and happiness for people. I know that the act of writing is an important tool in altering how people view and perceive things.
It may not be an automatic and sure-fire remedy towards the world’s countless woes, but it nonetheless tries to address aspects of it, however seemingly inane and intangible its effects may be. It holds an affecting significance for me, and I hope, for every person as well. Returning to the story of “The Little Prince,” perhaps the author had already best articulated the this particular sentiment when he pronounced ultimately, and rather aptly, “What is essential is invisible to the eye” (Saint-Exupery).