Convention and the way it strangles us has powered stories across the ages. Edith Wharton, Henry James and Gustav Flaubert knew how to present strange, lonely, interesting women abandoned for not towing socially acceptable lines. In men, rebellious streaks have been more attractive. Good-looking mavericks who play by their own rules are a type with currency. If you disagree watch A Streetcar Named Desire and wait for Marlon Brando’s entrance.
Conventions are more sophisticated now than just a list of gender-based dos and don’ts. In The Name of, a Polish drama that just had its international premiere at Berlinale, concerns itself with the struggle of a gay priest in rural Poland. In his world there’s zero place for the desires he channels into pounding through the forest during early morning runs. Yet still they keep him awake. The scenes where he lies on his back, starting at the ceiling while the electronic numbers on his bedside clock change are the perfect visualisation of how it feels to hold onto a growing pile on unspent urges. Into the silent night he stares frustrated by a lack of a way forward.
It would be immature to suggest conventions don’t serve a purpose. It’s a big world and without a few learnt skills for getting on well, life would be a constant bar-room brawl (I find this prospect appealing but I’m a deviant…). Of course, you’ve got to be as polite as you can and think about other people’s feelings, commitments, values and all that charming jazz.
But sometime that isn’t possible. Sometimes stressors stack up and people make crazy scenes. It happens every day actually. You know what would be good? If seeing a person making a scene – be it a friend, acquaintance, or perfect stranger – didn’t stimulate the ‘what the fuck?’ section of your brain, if you didn’t stash it away as a colourful anecdote or formulate it into a hilarious social media update. What would be good would be if you could think ‘this shit is real’ and jump for joy because, what will all the learnt decencies, and virtual communication, real shit is getting swept away.
When people interrupt your day by going batshit it’s a vital clue into what is happening for them. You don’t have to like what they’re doing or like them or do anything other than stop and notice and think. Because the alternative is to ignore and coldly judge and by doing so form part of the convention brigade, letting people who conduct themselves differently drift off into their own personal obscurity.
Image by croshay courtesy of Flickr