On the origins of my drive towards social analysis
I have previously written about my struggle with literalism, which it would not be unfair to say, describes the origins of my social perspective. However, there are plenty of literalists who choose to create cultures among themselves, hide themselves away, or find more bespoke solutions to living life in a pragmatic world.
Many times this year I have been faced with the convential wisdom theory that people are driven to their ambitions by their defining tragedies. While reductive, I think this theory explains a lot of the variance in ambitions we observe around us everyday.
While I was walking through a park today, I realized how I could explain my “tragedy” in all its banality. It was a warm summer day and there were many people walking around, sun bathing, having a picnic, etc. There were so many different kinds of people. People posturing in different ways. People with different resting expressions. People who were more or less conscious of their self-representation efforts. People who were flowing and people who were trying. People who seemed happy. People who seemed to be content with whatever they were feeling. People who wanted attention. People who wished they didn’t have so much. People who couldn’t decide.
When I step into a social situation, even one in which I am an observer, I perceive so many threads going through them of what it is like to be and want and do different things and I feel a terrible, literally naseauting envy. It is a feeling I have felt before, at a Nordstrom. I walked in through the entrance and was immediately faced with a massive rack of scarves, all of the same design, but each with a burstingly different color. I did not come to buy a scarf. It was the middle of summer, I never wore scarves, and these would look rather too feminine on me. But when I looked at it I was struck by the painful fact that I wanted all of these scarves, sitting in my closet at home so I could rifle through them at my leisure, wear one for an hour, and have access to just a little bit of what it would be like to own each one. Buying a single scarf would make things worse. Buying no scarves was the only solution and it still felt awful.
My defining tragedy is that I am constantly lonely whenever I think about my background feeling. I am only unlonely when I am engaged enough to not think about it. I have close friends, colleagues, and mentors. I have a happy life. But I am so intensely hungry for bits and pieces, that I simply cannot be satiated. I turn that painful focus on vicarious experience into a drive to verbalize, with the power of a literalist voice that doesn’t know what else to do with terrain that it is forced to traverse.