September 20, 2004

Unstoppable: People

When I was my daughter's age I didn't have many friends or companions. In fact it never really occurred to me to be bothered by the lack much until I was her age. Friends just weren't particularly important in a world that was full of family and my own thoughts, they got in the way and they were largely a chaos that I didn't care for.

As I grew older I began to experience that sense of loss keenly. I started measuring myself against others and found myself lacking in social skills that other people seemed to come by naturally. In fact, despite a reasonable facsimile of those natural emotional responses that everyone else seems to express as easily as breathing I've never been absolutely comfortable in that sort of skin. My small talk is always forced and sometimes inappropriate. My attention is never focused on the important matters of conversation. I get lost in people's words because I'm fascinated by the musculature of their faces. My words are too thoughtfully chosen and I'm full of too long pauses in the way I speak.

Eventually though, I socialized. At one time I was in an almost constant juggle of people surrounding me, I could count on visitors and phone calls. I met a woman whom I would have a child with through that constant dance. It was exhausting, but challenging. Occasionally I'd meet people I was actually sympathetic to. Some people even chose to label my social missteps as intelligence or as a sort of deepness of thought that I would never claim myself. I've high standards and expectations though, and worse an unlovely face and soul. Eventually I drove them all off one by one, or shattered their winsome expectations of perfection by convincing them of my inner cruelty and lack of compassion. It's true, really. Yes, I understand what you're thinking and why - I simply don't care most of the time.

Even I get attached though. Mostly to children, especially to children. Children have simple motivations that become increasingly more complex and unsympathetic as they grow older. You can smile at a child and have them smile back without worrying about the hidden chain of synapses behind their brains linking their impressions of you to some dark and ugly place in their soul.

My father and I were talking about evil the other day though. He, of course, was championing the idea that evil was some black and white manifestation - something clearly stated upon someone's character. I, on the other hand, have always seen clearly that if there were such a thing as a manifest evil then it would be clearly marked upon all mankind for our selfishness and so there should be no such thing as a black and white evil but only the knowledge that wrong is at least as much about perception as action. Children, having no education at all and only that selfishness inherent to humanity seem to prove that theory to me.

The world seems wrong to me though, if not evil. I'm wrong to want to see people I miss. The world is wrong that they keep themselves from me, warts and calousness aside. I know people that I shall never love or like, is it too much to ask for at least a handful of people to make a similar effort on my behalf? Sometimes it's as if I'm the only person in the world who figures out anyone. And sometimes it's as if for all that I understand about people I can't know them at all.


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