This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by .
Stories of Unknown Lives (SoUL)
Stories of Unknown Lives (SoUL)
I want to contribute to human enlightenment by recording and freely publishing deep interviews with people who have never been famous.
I want to contribute to human enlightenment by recording and freely publishing deep interviews with people who have never been famous. Read more
This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by .
About this project
I, too, have dreams: for instance, in the future, everyone can talk to each other without becoming so confused and upset that productive communication deteriorates into divisive conflict. I hope to begin making this dream real by creating a sort of documentary series, except that I will be interacting freely with the subjects of the series - as I get to know people, I intend to help however I can in guiding them to have a clearer understanding of their lives (whenever I feel competent to do so, of course, which may not always be the case). I will not be a passive observer; helping people (however marginally) in their own lives (however ambitious) while enlightening the outside world about the struggles of "unknown" people (who are not rich, famous, or extraordinarily inventive) in my city (Columbus, Ohio) will be the primary focus of the project.
Unfortunately, I have very little money. As it stands, the cheaply-recorded video offered on behalf of this project (and the mediocre audio that goes with it) is the best-quality option in my world. 640x480 is not an impressive resolution that screams, "Watch me!" to the picky eyes of modern kids and young adults, and the audio is a total deal-breaker for many of the people I'd most like to reach - "Surely," they'll hope, "I can find a better recording of the same kind of information elsewhere."
Since I intend to ask and record answers to a lot of questions that I consider very important (and thus worthy of widespread attention), I want people to be able to see and hear my interviews as clearly as possible. I would love to purchase a high-end 4k camcorder or DSLR, but everything worthwhile is much more than $500, and thus pretty far beyond my spending limits as a poor peasant. At minimum, it would be nice to have a GH4 or something similar. One setback is that I want to have memory-limited recording (rather than time-limited recording, as is the case with many cheaper cameras), because I intend to conduct interviews without time limits. I am also interested in purchasing a good microphone so that my videos won't have that awful static that cuts on before (and off after) the narrator in cheaply-produced YouTube videos. A good microphone can cost hundreds of dollars.
If I could raise about two-thousand dollars, I think I could afford to buy the cheapest professional-quality equipment available, with money left-over to create a nice, independent website with a good domain name for a year. If I outperform my goal, I will do my best to buy better equipment. If I raise so much that I can buy top-of-the-line equipment, that just means I'll have extra survival funds so that I can work more on interviewing people.
Note: Even if I raise an absurd amount of money - say $20000 - ten dollars at a time, and thus need to write a 4000-line rap song, I promise you all, I will do it. I will sit there and read a rap for three hours if you guys want to pay me $20000 to do it. If you do not email me details about yourself at firstname.lastname@example.org, I will not know to add you, so don't forget! I cannot promise flawless recital of something so massive, but I can promise to do my best and attempt to maintain enthusiasm throughout. :)
I was inspired to pursue this project after years of living a mostly-ordinary life among a wide variety of mostly-ordinary people and realizing that most major sources of media do not provide any honest, in-depth coverage of everyday laborers in America, or how they actually think. Most people are unimaginably detached from polling and the political systems that already poorly represent the reality of individuals, and whenever these "normal" (i.e., detached-from-the-mainstream) people are on TV, it is simply for a ten-second clip in which some mean-spirited reporter asks them (as politely as possible, of course) to provide evidence of the extent of their ignorance of modern politics (so that we may all laugh proudly about how little they know compared to us).
However, I am close friends with dozens of the kinds of people who would probably just say something silly and walk away from the average reporter, and my experience has taught me something that most people can't see. Ordinary people are not thoughtless, despite the impressions propagated by brief interactions with comedians and journalists on the street. More often than not, they're just too busy caring about other things that don't interest their interviewers. In my experience, everyone has a fairly complex emotional and intellectual history that is rarely revealed to the outside world.
And that brings me to why I think I'm a good fit for this task: people tend to enjoy sharing their histories with me. I have an easygoing, non-judgmental, no-woo-woo-unless-you-want-it-too personality that has in the past appealed to scientists, criminals, and religious zealots alike. Frankly, I have found that most people, given the opportunity, will share openly with anyone who expresses genuine willingness to listen (if people in your life hide things from you, I think you should ask yourself how you would honestly react if they said something you didn't like; I am never inclined to react in an aggressive or offensive way). I also come from a somewhat abusive family, so I have a lot of experience dealing with temper problems and magical reasoning, which enables me to smoothly manage unstable people in a way that would hopefully prevent me from getting into too much trouble by introducing myself to the wrong stranger.
I see this project as an opportunity to promote understanding in both my viewers and the subjects of my interviews. We live in a world where politics has become irrationally "directional" and ideological. Are you left, or right, or between them? Here's a better question: Why would directions have any logical connection to your position on the war in Syria, or the legalization of drug use? Are you a Republican or a Democrat? Okay, fine, but why exactly do you want to raise or lower taxes, and what exactly do you hope to accomplish as a consequence? We need to think about details if we want to understand whether something can actually work. And everyone needs to understand what will actually work if we want to achieve a sense of collective direction as friends, family, a nation, a species, or any kind of large group of interacting minds.
As an interviewer, I would politely make it clearer to everyone that there is no value in reducing the complexity of our world to these superficial ingroups and outgroups. I would simply ask (politely, with the genuine confusion of a child), "What do you mean by 'right'? What exactly does Pat Politician believe that seems 'right' to you? Of exactly what are Pat's beliefs to the right, and why is the other stuff on the left?" Eventually, with enough practice and experience, I am confident that everyone will realize that no practicable information whatsoever is offered by the cheap labels behind which we so often hide, and that they will be wasting their breath if they try to speak using such language, because I will insistently request clarification of what is actually meant by vague comments.
Hopefully, if we all learn to ask deeper questions and listen for deeper answers, we will all come to understand each other more fully. This is my greatest hope for the ultimate effect of pursuing and sharing SoUL. From this, I believe all else will follow. I can't pacify every violent mind overnight, but I can help us make progress in that direction, one conversation at a time.
As I see it, seriously critical thinkers won't be fighting in World War III, because they're less gullible. And a less gullible world is a safer, happier place for everyone.
Please do help me create that world. :)
Risks and challenges
The primary risk of this project seems to be my life, as far as I can see. I might attempt to interview the wrong stranger and become news for a more fortunate journalist. But that's a risk I'm willing to accept in order to promote greater good, so hopefully we can accept it together.
I definitely don't believe that critical thought poses as great a risk to my fellow proles as does the lack thereof, so I am not concerned about the "consequences" of promoting it. I think that my insight into people's lives is likelier to benefit than harm them. As both a tutor and a student of human minds, I feel fully qualified to manage this project safely.
The greatest challenge of this project, for me, is coming up with $2000+ for good equipment (which, again, is why I need your help!). This is complicated by the fact that I am extremely uncomfortable with intrusive advertising (I use AdBlock, and have every intention of doing this project for the experience, though I may seek donations to enable me to interview more frequently while working other jobs less frequently), and I'm also uncomfortable asking my friends for money (they don't have much, either).
In other words, I want to know that this project was funded by widespread love for the idea among strangers, and not just among my friends. If this is going to happen, I need strangers to care enough to let their friends know. Hopefully this will help me: http://kickingitforward.org
I think it's worth remembering that we live on a planet where worldwide war has, in a sense, existed continuously for thousands of years. Therefore, as someone who tries to promote friendly conversation between people who believe very different things (rather than the vicious mockery that has become standard between competing groups of people), I feel that life will actually be much more dangerous for everyone if I (and others) *don't* pursue these interactions with strangers.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter