Emotion Capture

Echo and Narcissus

Echo & Narcissus by John Williams Waterhouse

Art is the pure expression of emotion.  It is the struggle by the artist to take the pure emotion that they experience in their head, their heart, the feeling in their bones, the sense in the pit of their stomach, and to wrestle this jumble of sensory experience into another medium.  Poets wrestle with words, painters bleed their hearts onto canvas, sculptors hack emotions, by splinter and shard, from blocks of wood and marble.

Then fools like me can take these works of art, and can use them as a means to frame our own feelings.  Art acts as a confessional, a psychiatrist, a therapist, helping emotionally stilted mortals to feel.

So what emotions am I accessing with a pre-Raphaelite painting of Echo and Narcissus, and a poem about rediscovery of self love?  Answers on a postcard please to PO Box 55614, Metown, Myland.  First prize is a 1 week residential course in Self-Examination.  Second prize is a 2 week course.

Love After Love; by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you have ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Mirror Mirror


Titian:  Venus with a mirror
As you trowel on the ol’ slap tonight in preparation for your big rosemantic night of the year, bear in mind that you are engaged in one of life’s key rituals. What BBDO call “Sexing Up” in their Ritual Masters study.

In MCCP we found that, for women anyway, the moment of truth, the key win of the night, the high point, is that final check in the mirror. You know that moment, in the hallway, the door is open, the taxi is waiting, you turn to the mirror and there you see her, your radiant self, the special you, gorgeous. Yes, you are worth it!

Most men don’t realise that this is make or break time. If the date with the mirror is good, the night is a hit. If the date with the mirror goes wrong the poor guy is left dazed and confused, wondering what he said that put her in the bad mood. Truth is he was never even in with a chance.

For many women a girls night out is far better than a date. You have the added benefits of getting ready together, helping each other to look good, going out with people who understand the trouble you have gone through to look this good. They have a clue about fashion too.

Preparation starts days before going out. Some call and talk about the evening ahead; teenage girls photo message pictures of their outfits for approval and reassurance. People eat and drink luxury foods, forget diets and treat themselves.

The music you listen to as you get ready has the power to put you in a certain mood. It’s amazing we have lots of “driving down the road” music compilations and “love” compilations, but wouldn’t it be great to have a “putting on the ritz” compilation record?

Lots of brands participate in the sexing up ritual, starting days in advance with restaurant and event bookings, clothes shopping, waxes, hair colours, plucking, exfoliating. On the day we have shaving of all sorts of body parts, men and women, tooth whitening, brushing, flossing. Makeup (insert tech piece here). Deodorant, anti-perspirant, spray on smelly stuff, nail varnish, eye drops, alcohol, over the counter drugs, recreational drugs, contraceptives etc etc. Sexing up is a brand marketing wet dream.

Bottom line: when “sexing up,” people are transforming from their normal to most confident selves. They use special products to make themselves feel special.

Was it better in the good old days, when a man could get by on his dreams?

HE wishes for the cloths of heaven: William Butler Yeats

HAD I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Securing the castle


The final daily ritual we engage in is what I call “Securing the Castle”

Some people think of this as locking up for the night, making sure the house does not burn down, by making the fire safe etc.

For me it is far more than that.  I rise early and have a set routine to follow to make my train on time.  My wife, Louise, is the one who puts the spark guard on the fire, turns off computers, makes sure the doors are locked and so on.  For me it is a process of leaving packed bags by the door, laying out clothes for the next day, setting up the coffee machine, making lunch, charging the phone/alarm etc.

Sequence matters the least for this ritual because this is a time to let go:  less than 50% of people have a  sequence to end their day.

The important part of this ritual is to free the mind of concerns so that you can relax into a deep sleep.  If you forget a step it will niggle away at your mind and prevent you from relaxing.  You end up having those awful dreams such as the one where you find yourself in school in your underwear, or you arrive at an exam and realise you haven’t studied for the paper.

A Locked House:  by W.D. Snodgrass
As we drove back, crossing the hill,
The house still
Hidden in the trees, I always thought—
A fool’s fear—that it might have caught
Fire, someone could have broken in.
As if things must have been
Too good here. Still, we always found
It locked tight, safe and sound.
I mentioned that, once, as a joke;
No doubt we spoke
Of the absurdity
To fear some dour god’s jealousy
Of our good fortune. From the farm
Next door, our neighbors saw no harm
Came to the things we cared for here.
What did we have to fear?
Maybe I should have thought: all
Such things rot, fall—
Barns, houses, furniture.
We two are stronger than we were
Apart; we’ve grown
Together. Everything we own
Can burn; we know what counts—some such
Idea. We said as much.
We’d watched friends driven to betray;
Felt that love drained away
Some self they need.
We’d said love, like a growth, can feed
On hate we turn in and disguise;
We warned ourselves. That you might despise
Me—hate all we both loved best—
None of us ever guessed.
The house still stands, locked, as it stood
Untouched a good
Two years after you went.
Some things passed in the settlement;
Some things slipped away. Enough’s left
That I come back sometimes. The theft
And vandalism were our own.
Maybe we should have known.

Prepare for Battle


BBDO, the ad agency, published a piece of research called “The Ritual Masters” which identified a set of daily rituals that provide humans with structure in our day.

Rituals are transformational.  They move us from one phase of existence to another.  Marriage is a ritual that moves us from a state of being single, to a state of being a couple.  In our daily lives our rituals may not mark such significant transitions, but daily rituals remain very important.  Perhaps more important than the big, infrequent ones, the rites of passage.  Where would we be without small daily rituals?

The first ritual we perform every day they call “Preparing for Battle”.  It is the process of transforming ourselves from a dream/sleep state into an energised, active, waking state, ready to go out and take on the world.  Dreaming and Sleeping are states which allow the id to project itself, to wander in the world of the possible, to imagine and fantasise.  Our inner child can play the game of “what if”.

When we wake we must rapidly move the id closer to the ego, and engage with the cold hard real world of facts, hard surfaces, life commitments, taxes, bills to pay, places to go before I sleep.  The morning ritual is a group of activities we perform which wake us up and ground the id.

The most common  task is brushing teeth, performed by 82% of people around the world.  Brushing of teeth could be the most unifying act performed by humans of all races, ages and status all round the world.  If you want to identify with everyone, talk about the experience of brushing teeth.

Next most common, in diminishing order of importance are taking a shower or bath (74%), having something to eat/drink (74%), talking   to a family member/partner (54%), checking e-mail (54%),   shaving (male – 53%), putting on makeup (female – 47%), watching TV/listening to   radio (45%) and reading a newspaper (38%). Notice anything missing?  Well, they forgot to mention getting dressed!

If you examine all the possible combinations for putting on the average 9 clothing & jewellery items, the permutations are enormous.  The human brain cannot handle the stress of making decisions every morning, so we follow a routine.  Same sock on same foot.   Same leg goes into the same side (left or right) every morning.  Dressing is like a well rehearsed dance, same moves every time.

Many of the actions we take every morning are almost automated they are so routine.

Breakfast is the most boring meal of the day.  Look at the foods we eat.  Oatmeal, maize, bran, toast, eggs, simple foods, basic foods, unchallenging foods.  Who prepares and eats a roast chicken dinner or a vindaloo curry for breakfast?  (Last nights leftovers excepted)

So every morning we gird our loins, like putting on a suit of armour to do battle with the big bad world.  When you open your door and step out of your house you need to be ready for business!  But sometimes, when you are riding on the bus, you may slip back a little into that cosy warm womblike dream state, for just a few minutes more.

A day in the life:  by John Lennon & Paul McCartney

I read the news today, oh boy
About a lucky man who made the grade
And though the news was rather sad
Well I just had to laugh
I saw the photograph
He blew his mind out in a car
He didn’t notice that the lights had changed
A crowd of people stood and stared
They’d seen his face before
Nobody was really sure
If he was from the House of Lords.

I saw a film today, oh boy
The English Army had just won the war
A crowd of people turned away
but I just had to look
Having read the book
I’d love to turn you on

Woke up, fell out of bed,
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup,
And looking up I noticed I was late.
Found my coat and grabbed my hat
Made the bus in seconds flat
Found my way upstairs and had a smoke,
and somebody spoke and I went into a dream

I read the news today, oh boy
Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
And though the holes were rather small
They had to count them all
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.
I’d love to turn you on