tangled

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asterokosmos, thessaloniki, greece
“I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights”.
Maya Angelou

Is it a coincidence? All playwrights and novelists from ancient greek tragedies to contemporary movies and theatrical plays use stressful and extreme events to reveal their characters. Imitating real life, writers know very well that circumstances are the triggering events to bring to light our characteristics, our dispositions. Chancy events, annoying and minor, like a lost luggage, to outrageous and rare, like an irreplaceable loss, can say a lot about ourselves and our behavior. After all, no matter what we think about us and no matter what we say, we are defined by our actions. Action is external; distinct; perceived, thus louder, even if it occurs now and then. 

But, what is the nature of these dispositional characteristics? Henry James wonders in “The Art of Fiction”, if character is the determination of incident, or incident the illustration of character. Considering the etymology of the ancient greek word character that it initially meant the engraving tool, it’s amazing to think the successful metaphor; like the tool that engraves surface, circumstances etch ourselves and reveal us. 
Maybe dispositions already exist, but they can only be seen, if an event pushes them out in the surface. As in taste, you are ignorant until you eat or drink something for the first time, thus in self-knowledge you don’t know if you’re brave, coward, thoughtful, violent, honest, manipulative, etc., until eventual events force you to “choose” what you are. If you choose grace, you are sincere, and so on. And, that’s why in many cases, almost the most of them, others seems to know us better. Their detached observation provides them with a crucial advantage…