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Whose gaze do you live for?

I have been thinking this morning about Milan Kundera… about graphomania and the question of audience. I have always loved, and often bring up, this question that he posed (can’t remember if it was in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, or The Unbearable Lightness of Being):

Whose gaze do you live for? What audience do you perform for, speak to, and care most about?

If I am recalling accurately (apologies if I am misquoting, but it’s roughly right at least), he poses these possibilities:

1) The gaze of an ideal, inspirational imagined someone, or perhaps a real person who is now absent

2) The gaze of one specific someone in your life, a lover

3) The gaze of a close set of known people

4) The gaze of the broader public

Twitter, blogging, Facebook, social media in general is all quite new to me still, I really did resist for quite a while… and I can definitely feel it changing a bit the way I go through my day, the way I experience things, who I feel that I am speaking to and sharing life with… Just as email did when it became a big part of my self-expression, or letters when I was younger (I was quite into pen pal letters and such, when I was a kid.)

So much of what we experience really only becomes real in the telling, in the sharing, and I have always been a firm believer that WHO you choose to share things with, and in what WAYS, through what media, and whether privately or not, MATTERS, just as much as the fact that you are having the thought or experience and sharing it at all. I think there is often a very real difference between the way you share something with just one person, tailored to your unique relationship with them, versus sharing “at large” (although “at large” could perhaps mean sharing with a particular, identified, group, which is yet again different, I think).

The way in which we exchange information and thoughts with other people is a core part of the constant performance that is self-identity and relationships — with choices around media and selective privacy (how you divvy up the different kinds of views you allow of yourself) serving as instruments for that performance, it seems to me. And the type of gaze you want to live for seems like a big part of determining what media and types of privacy and sharing are most appealing to you, no?

I’d say that I personally fall into some combination of #1 and #3 among Kundera’s options… I’ve always cared most about sharing with and reflecting with a small set of people whom I truly respect and find challenging and inspiring, or with whom I have the most lived history. I couldn’t possibly care less about #4, and I think have too many different interests and sides of myself to ONLY, solely, live for the gaze of one single real human being…hence the draw to #1. But really, #3 is where it’s at for me — passing along the richness of that to my #2, so to speak, when I happen to have one — thereby enriching both of our lives.

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