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The Whole Image (Soul Stealing and Microphones)

This friend of mine has always been one of the most superstitious people I know. Her childhood was split between two households, each with their own unique beliefs and superstitions. Having been quite close for the past few years, I’ve heard innumerable stories regarding strange folk-beliefs her parents taught her as a little girl. When I asked her about her superstitions and pulled out a microphone, she sealed her lips and wouldn’t explain until I’d turned it off. And first, I was a bit peeved, but by the end of her explanation, it made a lot more sense.

The following was recorded by hand during a group interview with 4 other of our friends in the common area of a 6-person USC Village apartment.

“Okay so the reason I don’t speak into microphones, no actually don’t – no please don’t. I’ll hold it. I’ll explain it to you, it’s completely legitimate! Okay. So… I don’t believe in speaking into a microphone if there’s no image along with it because my personal spiritual beliefs have to do with the reflection and the way that a person is viewed by other people. Kind of like everyone has a projection, so if your projection doesn’t capture the whole picture it’s wrong. I’ll only be in a video if there’s sound and I’ll only speak directly if you can see me doing it. Think about the way people look at Instagram. If I show you Ben’s insta you only get 3% of his personality. As a means of calculating the projections I give off, I don’t get to know people that well, I’m really picky with people I get to know, and I’m picky with how I represent myself, so I’ve deleted my insta, and I don’t like posing for photos. I don’t like artificial projection, because it goes against my spiritual beliefs. Voice overs for movies are different. That’s acting out a character When representing yourself, I only like the whole image. I don’t take pictures.

 “Partly just growing up, a big part of misunderstanding and getting along with people is getting the whole picture. I grew up never getting the whole picture, I feel like it’s important to be as genuine as possible. If you’re allowing someone to see you and know you as a person, and you only give them a partial image, then, intrinsically, you’re setting yourself up to be stereotyped, and like, put into a box.

 “That’s why I hate telling people I’m vegan. It’s like, yeah, I’m fucking vegan, but I like chicken wings sometimes, you know? I hate being put into boxes because no one will ever kno- you don’t even know yourself. No one will ever know anyone. So why make it easier for people to assume that they can? I’m interested in things, but part of my spirituality is just lack of definition. I just think definition is so limiting… And I’ve also tripped on acid a lot, so I’ve felt more things than human existence. I also – I – Identity is complicated. I think people have crossover, but I don’t think – there’s absolutely no way that there’s a carbon copy of me somewhere else. There’s no way that anyone has a carbon copy. I don’t know. Now you get why I don’t like being recorded! I’ve had a lot of problems with this. In high school, I was – me and a couple of people were going to start a band, and then… we didn’t because I wouldn’t record. It was weird.

 “To go back to the question, I am like – I have depersonalization realization. It’s like a mental disorder. Everyone experiences it differently, but I have a separation between myself and what I make. My ankle for example – I just broke it, but I didn’t really process the pain immediately. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see myself, but I see a body that my soul is in. It’s kind of like Freaky Friday. I mean, nobody will ever know you. Your appearance has nothing to do with who you are. I don’t give a shit about my body. I don’t eat. I don’t feel hungry, or like feel anything. I only feel things in my brain. That’s why I live inside my brain. I mean I can feel you, but I’m not – it’s not like I don’t have nerves. I just live inside my brain.”

This superstition is fascinating to me, as it ties together a few more common superstitions and builds upon them while following a strange sort of dream-logic. Perhaps the most famous anecdote regarding soul theft and photography is famed Lakota tribal leader Crazy Horse never having his photograph taken. It’s quite common for many Native American and Australian Aborigines tribes to view photography as a fracturing and subsequent thievery of the soul, as the whole concept of photography is freezing a moment of time. However, my friend puts a whole new spin on this as she adds audio and video recordings to the mix. It’s fascinating to follow her complicated web of spirituality, and it really does make you think about how we define ourselves and those around us.

For more information on soul stealing and photography, check out: http://www.bigbanglife.org/?p=404

For a skeptical view of the same, check out: https://www.csicop.org/sb/show/soul_theft_through_photography

general

Mr. Krabs Meme

Informant: Do you know the memes on Instagram, like, the accounts that are called like “the female life” or “funny posts” just like those accounts? They always have a lot of really funny ones. I honestly every day just find a funny meme that’s relevant to what I’m doing will pop up in my head, and I’ll just laugh, like for example… Oh there’s one from Spongebob, that’s a picture of Mr. Crabs in the center, and everything around him is a big blur, and I forget what the caption was because a lot of people have created their own little captions for it, but I always refer back to that meme when I’m feeling overwhelmed, and I feel like I’m Mr. Crabs in that situation.

 

My informant is a freshman at the University of Southern California. She is studying psychology. She is from Orange County, California. I spoke to her in her dorm one night.

 

This is an example of a newer type of folklore, or something that has to do with terminus post quem. This could not have existed before certain social media has allowed it to exist. It’s a way of sharing something funny but relatable and adding humor to it. It shows multiplicity and variation with the different captions used with it.

Folk speech
general

DYEL

“Do you even lift?”

 

“I would use it if . . . if someone was like walking down the street and they looked like they were really jacked and they were wearing like, one of those like douche-y frat bro tanks, I’d be like, ‘Dude, D-Y-E-L?’ But, like, if he didn’t lift then he’d probably be like, ‘What?’ but if he did he’d be like, ‘Oh, dude totally.’ And then it’s like that connection.”

 

The informant thinks she learned it from a hashtag on an Instagram account for CrossFit. “It means a lot, actually, like to me personally . . . If someone knows what DYEL means then it’s like, oh like, you’ve done your research type of thing, or it’s like you follow those CrossFit Instagrams, you follow those like bodybuilding Instagrams, like you’re into the fitness which means you’re like into the community and like . . . ‘cause a lot of people do say like, ‘Oh yeah I work out,’ and it’s like I could sit on a treadmill and watch TV too. Like I don’t consider that a workout. Like if you can watch TV that’s not a workout to me. If you can, like, have thoughts that’s not a workout to me it’s like you should be pushing yourself to be, like, where your body is failing . . . where it’s like you can’t do another sit-up, you can’t do another squat, you can’t do another push-up . . . ‘cause then it means like you’re actually, like, making your body better. And that’s what lifting is about. It’s like pushing yourself, ‘cause it’s not only like, like you’re not only pushing yourself physically, but you have to be mentally strong because it’s like, it’s painful to be like, ‘Fuck, I have to do this again?’”

 

“Like I can instantly look at someone, even if they’re in a full suit, and be like, ‘Yes or no.’ Like, from the way, like, they look or like I see all these guys in the gym and their upper bodies look strong, but I can lift more than them . . . It’s interesting, the culture, because they do it for looks rather than functionality and like, I don’t have a six-pack by any means, like I have, like, more fat on my body, but like, I’m in better shape than them . . . they’re way off, which is, like really sad, because like, they don’t know what they’re doing and then like you’re destroying your body and you’re gonna hurt yourself later in life, which is a really sad thought . . . They’re doing it wrong, and they don’t even lift. So that is my DYEL.”

 

The informant was a 21-year-old USC student who grew up in competitive snowboarding and has dabbled in CrossFit and other workout programs. She sees herself as a part of “lifting culture” and values physical strength and hard work in other people. It was interesting to me that she had such a long explanation of what “DYEL” means, as I had only previously heard about it in a joking context. From what I understand about “DYEL,” it is frequently used as a sarcastic turn of phrase online and in the world at large. I agree with the gist of what the informant said, though, as it seems like this acronym is a way of quickly establishing who belongs in the lifting community, and who does not. It seems like the community is very aware of how it is perceived and that people frequently try to pass for being a part of it, so things like “DYEL” easily separate out those that are “in the know.” Of course, it is also noteworthy that the informant learned of this acronym/hashtag from an Instagram account. It speaks to the spaces in which the lifting community is meeting and the way they feel they need to express themselves in a larger social sphere.

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