In the book A Million Little Pieces, James Frey calls himself an Alcoholic, a Drug Addict and a Criminal. His limited perception of himself and the world around him is compellingly described. Forget the accuracy of this story, the aesthetics are more important.
The author capitalizes unusual words for the chunks of information he perceives: Office, Woods, Bar, People, Daughter. It is extremely rare for him to see a bigger picture. He simply is not able or willing to process this kind of information. One time where it clicks into focus for him is copied without authorization below (pg 230). Background information is at the bottom of this post wherein readers are permitted direct access into the authors head for a full spectrum of human emotion from violent rage to a moment of clarity. After that happens, he states:
“I sit and I stare at the World. I see it and hear it and I touch it and I feel it. It is what it is, dirt and rock and water and Sun and air and waves of light and waves of sound made up of definable elements. It can be created or reproduced by man at will. Science has given us that power.”
Now, what useful scientific and humanitarian goals can be accomplished with “light and waves of sound made up of definable elements” that “can be created or reproduced by man at will”? How can we manage all the information available to be presented in useful, empowering formats?
You Are Not Here: A World Poverty Map by the Chronic Poverty Center.
What benefit can regular people and people in need get from creating and seeing a bigger picture? What kind of information is it made from? Where does it originate? Can it be made from light and waves of sound we can experience? What prevents people in need from processing this kind of information? Reality? Fear? Lack of Control? Are people in Darfur ever able to have the luxury of spending time thinking deeply or is it a constant state of rush and confusion?
Map of Confirmed Damaged and Destroyed Villages by the Humanitarian Information Unit at the US Department of State.
The violent rage of society needs to go for a walk in the woods.
Photos courtesy of Chris and Tim Gerhardson in Lagos, Nigeria.
What if the problem of being unable to perceive a bigger picture was scaled up from an individual in need to a rapidly changing mega-city in need. For example Lagos, Nigeria? Or the whole continent of Africa?
Nobody is really sure how many people live in Lagos, let alone all of Africa. A recent house to house census in Lagos set the population at 9 million. The UN Population Fund disagrees and says 16 million. The Lagos state government insists the figure is 17 million. The UN has predicted by 2015, Lagos will be the third most populous city in the world with an estimated 23 million people.
t foo (growing)
saakee, d saakee (change, there is change)
How can a bigger picture be made for huge numbers of people in a buzzing metropolis like Lagos? What types of information need to be understood to help them the most?
waayar – d (progress, make with)
Do people in Lagos have time to be able to see where they stand and where they are heading? Not only in terms of geography, buildings, and number of people but in terms of their history, future, ideas, information and limited resources.
A current Accuracy&Aesthetics project is to gather and make a series of maps to help the people of Lagos understand where they are so they can participate in shaping their future, pursue happiness, and think big.
The digital age can help people in need by giving them new ways to see where they are and express their hopes and dreams. Hopefully, people everywhere in all living conditions can eventually show us who they are, and let us know what’s on their minds so we can help achieve their goals in both the short and long term. Maybe we will all learn something.
j nk’ai (having understanding)
gwaal (open one’s eyes widely)
k’oof, mashigii (opening)
mur.y, saut (voice)
na’m (expression of agreement, interest)
dbaar, ra’yii (idea)
d’uur.iy, lbaar, r.hoot, saadrwaa, sanrwaa (information)
walaw (personal freedom)
A journey through James Frey’s inner thoughts (pg 228)
“The Halls are bright and the Fury in side of me wants them down full of holes reduced to rubble. I hate these fucking Halls I want to destroy them destroy myself destroy everything. I breathe deeply and I hold on and I walk toward the Unit. I want to go outside and I want to breathe free air. I want air that is not of this place and I want space that is not of this place. I want no walls, no Halls, no Units, no Counselors, no Rules, no God, no Higher Powers, no Steps, no Groups, no Lectures, no Dining Hall, nobody to see talk to deal with. I want to breathe. Free empty air. I walk through the Upper Level and I walk down to the Lower Level and through a Group Session Lincoln is leading and he asks me what I’m doing and I ignore him and I open the glass doors and I step outside and I breathe breathe breathe and the air is free.
I start walking. I have no idea where I’m going, I’m just walking. I take a Trail and I follow it and it leads me into the cover of Evergreen. It’s darker in here and I feel less vulnerable and more comfortable. I am breathing deeply, as deeply as I can breathe, and the air is calming me down. The Fury has dissipated and is a walking rage, an anger like fire, entirely controllable, and easy to stop it from burning or hurting anything.
The Sun is high, its light shattered by tree branches, their streams illuminate dirt, dead leaves and rotting plants killed by the Winter’s cold. Frost sparkles in the shade waiting to melt. In an hour it will be gone. In ten hours it will return. Another day another cycle here gone back tomorrow gone again. I am cold. Warmth is in the light but I avoid it. As I walk, I’ll get warmer. I’m in no hurry.
I follow the Trail and the Trail leads me along the Lake. The Lake is the same as it is each day the same. Sheets of ice, life below, birds above. Noise destroying silence, silence overwhelming noise. Reflections slowly move along the water distorting what is real the object or the image. They are both real and it is all real. It all is in front of me life is in front of me and behind me above me below me surrounding me. I can see it and feel it and hear it and touch it. Inside and outside. Right Now.
A bench is empty. I sit down close my eyes open myself. I don’t know to what I am opening myself. Is it God or something Higher. Is it me or what is around me. Does it matter do I need to know. It matters because it is what is keeping me together. This opening is allowing me to pick up the pieces of a shattered life. I need to believe in it to continue to believe in me. I need to know what it is. What is it that opens me.
I stand and I walk along the edge of the water until it ends in a Sea of yellow grass. The grass is dead now but will return in the Spring that is the way of the World. Things die and they return. Is that biology or God or something Higher. Are we biology or God or something Higher. I know my heart beats and I listen to it. The beat is biology, but what is the song.”