15 Thin Slicing

Otis’s mouth is wide open and I can see all the way to the back to his throat. His tongue is twirling like a tornado, producing ungodly sounds. The camera jerks upwards and two giant, round holes float across the screen, swirling around in a blurry mass. I can hardly tell that those are Otis’s nostrils. One eyeball flings itself into the frame, the eye lashes extended like knives. Then, the other eyeball whirls in, surprisingly clear and in focus. I can almost count the wiggly red worm-like blood vessels that stand out against the white of his eye.

I’m watching the footage of our Earthship fight, close-up and in slow motion to try and understand how on earth the two of us, a relatively whimsical duo, could end up with a bleeding head and a black eye just because of a bit of string. Was this insanity?

Thin-slicing is a technique in which small, specific moments and experiences are used to understand larger behavioral patterns. Say you have a cake and you want to know what the cake tastes like before you eat the whole cake – you cut a thin slice and taste it. You don’t need a huge slice, you just need a tiny bit. Everything you need to know about that whole cake is evident in this one little slice. Reducing the whole into smaller and smaller parts gives you insights into the whole.

Thin-slicing is used by marketing firms with focus groups and test screenings. Marketing people can tell a lot by the response of a very small slice of the population. Law enforcement uses thin-slicing to find the truth. Detectives will video tape and voice record their suspects. Later the detectives will thin-slice the interview to find out if the suspect is lying. The truth can be difficult to decipher because the mind tells “stories” but our bodies tell the truth. The body says it like it is.

I put the footage of our fight into Final Cut and sit with an editor as we watch it. The editing system gives me the chance to closely observe the screaming and physical violence. I am able to see the exact moment where I snap. Our voices are reduced to one word at a time so I hear the sounds our vocal cords are making, rather than hearing the content. Our faces move through different emotions and the editing system shows me a moment-by-moment breakdown. It is painful to watch our fears and contempt for one another. I feel the sadness that comes from our failures.

By slowing down the video, I can not only observe my Black Witch in action, but I discover the Black Wizard inside of Otis. Keeping my Black Witch at bay allows Otis’s Black Wizard to grow more and more fierce. Now that I am starting to control my anger, he has to control his too.

In retrospect, this very solitary two weeks drove us out of our minds. In that moment of murderous rage, I see that it was really dangerous for the two of us to be in the middle of nowhere. Being surrounded by people is vital for us. Ironically, the missing element for us to be in love, is the conscious community we had talked about.

I edit the piece and put the entire fight on YouTube, calling it “We Have to Fight!” I sit by the computer and watch the video upload. I feel strangely excited about sharing my ordeal with all of humanity.


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