Connection and Projection

Connection: a relationship, association, kinship, reciprocity.

Projection: in photography or technology, the process of projecting an image on a screen.

“Connecting to Heal, that’s our banner for Impacts Alaska Counseling Services. But what does that really mean?

We do believe that humankind was made for relationship, with other people (friends, family, and associates). Also for relationship with a Higher Power, belief in whom assures us our lives have purpose and meaning in the grand scheme of things. And strangely enough, we need to develop ever-deeper relationship with ourselves.

Self to self, what in the world does that look like?

This above all: To thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.  (SHAKESPEARE)

The more I lie to myself, the more I pretend to be who I’m not, the easier it is to deceive others. The more true I can be to myself, the more transparent I can be before others, the easier it is to feel connection with my Higher Power.

Plato said the worst of all deceptions is self-deception. Is that why Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is within you”? The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Truth (John 16:13 BIBLE). To the extent that we can’t acknowledge and confront the truth about ourselves, to that degree we will be walled off from God and people.

Think of the abusive husband who hits his wife and calls her names, justifying his behavior because of false judgments he has made about her, afraid to look inside at the wounds and insecurities motivating his lashing out.

Think of the anorexic young woman seeking to control food intake as a last ditch bastion of rebellion against a perfectionistic mom, as she obsessively looks in the mirror and sees fat when in reality she is horrifyingly skinny.

Think of the abused child who is convinced and believes to the core that he is evil and deserves to be violated.

The truth must burn away the heart lies so each can accept his situation and move forward.

And that’s the way it is for all of us. We see through a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12 BIBLE), but as we age and suffer life’s trials the lies get burned away and we come more and more present to self and to God.

Which brings me to the worldwide web, specifically the social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. This isn’t connection as much as it is projection. “Projecting to Heal”? I don’t think so.

Projecting an image has gone far beyond a procedure in a darkroom or even  digital downloading. Now it’s often image-making on an interactive screen of dreams.

Projecting an image has become our cultural obsession. Media advertising and product packaging has morphed into self-creation as a product package, offered to the world through the magical media.

I can be anyone I wish on MySpace and Facebook, and that may be a good thing. I can show pictures of my latest fishing trip or a visit to the zoo with my grandchildren. And if I’m of the Millennial Generation, I’ll probably include a few “glam shots”. I can tell you who I am according to whimsical online surveys, and I can create a scrapbook for family and friends with my favorite backgrounds and “stickers”. Amazing the connections I can make.

And amazing the deceptions I can create. It’s well known now how cyber crime can be perpetrated on innocent girls who think they have a young admirer that turns out to be a sex offender monster decades older than portrayed. That’s an extreme perversion of a wonderful tool for relationship. Or is it?

A long time ago when I went to Venice I stood in the Piazza San Marco, where every year since 1296 the day before Lent has been a public holiday. Participation in the festivities historically involved engaging in various dangerous games. Animals were set loose and slaughtered, and wild brawls with sticks and fists were common.

And there was another feature of the season. From St. Stephen’s Day on December 26th until Shrove Tuesday right before Lent, Venetians could elect to wear beautiful, uniquely stylized masks until finally on Carnival Day everyone was in disguise. The masks were so valued that Venetian disguise craftsmen had a special place in society and were honored with their own guild.

Could it be that the need to hide from exposure is innate to us? In Genesis Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig leaves after they became aware of their guilt before God and each other. Fig leaves are gross and primitive when compared to the highly ornate creations of Venetian mask makers, but the intent is the same. Expand by exponents of connection from a mask or a fig leaf and you have a MySpace profile.

The world wide web miracle is both astounding and incomprehensible in its scope.But with all the bells and whistles, with “435 friends and the latest digital shots of me with my latest boyfriend”, has something been left behind?

When are the masks, the ones concealing my real identity, removed from myself and from others? When do we sit down with each other and cry and scream with joy together, over the poignant mysteries of life?

There is much to experience in lyric poetry, classical music, and ancient philosophy. A walk in the rain on the beach or the ecstasy of a moment of grace when God appears to join into an earnest conversation between friends can’t be replaced by a bit on a screen.

The discussion is ongoing. The tradeoff of projection vs. connection, balancing what has been gained with what has been lost.

28 August 2009