Spending the week at the American Film Market, and watching $800 million worth of narrative morsels whiz around the beaches of Santa Monica, can make you think many cynical things about what makes a movie popular. It reminded me of this old graph I created five or six years ago to try to encapsulate all human consciousness on one piece of paper.
Here’s my stand-up performance in Wellfleet on August 28, 2010 discussing it:
It seems like we all start within the A ring, the story you tell yourself about you, or, The Ring of the Narcissist: your mirror face, your hopes for the future, circumstances that you assure yourself are not your fault, your memories, and the impact you notice yourself having on a room.
Then we enter the B ring — the story you tell the world about you, or, The Ring of the Braggadocio — your photo face, what you choose what to wear, the angle you hold your spine, your behavior in traffic, how long you take to answer questions, and how many stories you tell in which you are the hero or the victim.
The C ring — the story the world tells you about you, or, The Ring of the Consumer — is all advertising, movies, magazines, and media. You are the center of the universe, it all tells us, and you are going to need equipment. Like toothpaste.
The D ring — the story the world tells itself about you, or, The Ring of the Paranoiac — feels like a cage if you focus on it too long: your credit score, gossip about you, photography of you that you don’t like, your nation.
The D ring feels so much like a cage in fact, that very few people venture past it to the glorious E ring — the story you tell the world about the world, or, The Ring of the Participant — the art you make, your carbon footprint, how you will participate in the world, and what you give away.
It’s all about where you put most of your preoccupations. When I put on clothes in the morning, are they to assure myself I’m okay looking? To assure others I’m successful? To sport the latest brands? To give the finger? To not get fired? Or to keep me warm while I tend my planet?
The truth is, I think, if you focus on the story you tell the world about the world, it will influence all the others, and your life will inevitably improve. But if you get trapped in the psycho-emotional rat’s nest of the inner circles of self-consciousness, and spend all of your time pursuing sensations (e.g. the sensation of being famous, or being correct, or mighty), you will have missed out on incredible opportunities to contribute a verse to the great human experiment.
When I get caught up in the movie of my life—and start to dwell on what people might think—I try to remember…
No one is watching. The cinema is empty. And it is such a relief.
Oh, and the oomphalos (Greek for navel) is the unknowable belly button of existence. That’s the one in the middle. The actual you enshrouded by all this narrative tomfoolery. The you anyone would fall in love with, if only they could see it.
And download a pdf of the above chart here.