I haven’t been posting much lately. There’s a few reasons for that. For one, there’s something stemming from my last post that’s still being resolved and I’m not commenting on that matter till it gets sorted out. So that tends to put a damper on my communication when there’s an elephant in the room that doesn’t bear description. But I’ve also been struggling a bit lately to find an equilibrium of time and expression that works for me. The complicating factors of being just shy of turning 31, dealing with multi-continental communication with a certain person, and trying to decide what I’m going to do with the coming year after this May have all weighed heavily. And, lacking conclusions, there is little to say.
So I’m not really going to talk about any of that today. What I do want to focus on is something arguably more important that has crept in through the margins, that has manifest on the sidelines of all these other things I’m trying to decide. A fitting frontispiece for this post might be John Lennon’s old standard “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” But it might also be my old standard “Why do you think we were born on a planet with six or seven billion people on it instead of just one person?” And herein lies the crux of the issue. People. Lots of ’em.
Look, I’m an only child. People often frustrate me. I’ve been known to get into a state after weeks or months on end surrounded by others where I start to crave alone time, start to find ways to force it upon myself whether it’s really feasible or not. Staying up late has a lot to do with that – in times when I’ve been most surrounded, I’ve pushed the limits of late-awakeness mostly out of a need to carve out time that’s only mine, where I can be alone with my thoughts and stack them up, rearrange them, figure out what’s really going on. Losing that ability tends to correspond to what other people claim to experience when they lose sleep – fragmentation of thought, randomness of action. Not good things.
HOWever, the last thing I’ve really been needing of late is time alone. I’ve never had so much of it in all my born days. And this has put special focus on the rare exceptions, the time when I get to interact with others, especially outside of a merely utile context like debate. When I get to just talk and be and exchange ideas and thoughts and feelings with other folks.
People, these times are what life is all about. I have gotten to hang out, on the phone or in person, with a handful of close friends in the last couple of weeks, and I simply don’t understand how any human being could prioritize anything else in their lives above human interaction of this kind. Yes, I know we’re all technically sustained by food and it probably helps to have access to clothing and shelter, but the fundamental roots of our human dignity have to be about access to meaningful conversation steeped in mutual respect and interest. And admittedly debate is a lot like that, in several ways, or gives rise to similar interpersonal conversation once one pushes beyond “how was your round?” But conversations that are the fundamental centerpiece of most all of my friendships, the balanced buffet of bantery jokes and references, shared memories, enlightened understanding, and honest exploration, this is the atomic block of life as a rational agent. This is what keeps us, any of us (I would posit) going. And without it, life quickly becomes gray, drab, brutish, and potentially short.
This is somewhere between +1 and -1 on a 100-point revelatory scale, but the way it’s hit me this week has reframed internal debates about what is important and meaningful in my life. Namely because I’m so surprised that we don’t structure society more around the facilitation of these kinds of deep and profound interactions. There are a lot of market-based commercial reasons to minimize the role of these conversations and exchanges of ideas, of course, though I hardly think capitalism can singlehandedly shut them out. But obviously if we advertise based on the exploitation of insecurities, we hardly want to enable people to derive such satisfaction from individualized free experiences that at most require a meal or beverage over which to stage such an encounter. But that can’t be all that’s thwarting daily recognition and prioritization of these kinds of groupings. Part of it has to be about the difficulty and perhaps non-universality of finding close friends, especially those who persist across years and decades to enable meaningful reunions and catchings-up. Still, most everyone has such friends, even if only in ones and twos.
I do have to blame money, I guess. And as the upcoming quiz (half the images are done and then I have to write all the answers – it could be anywhere from three days to three months away at this point) illustrates, money is a big impediment to most meaningful things. But surely even people dedicated to work or to setting time aside for a passionately pursued pursuit must be able to take a step back and realize that only when exchanging important ideas with those they most care for are they maximizing their potential as a human being. That what they can most remember about one, three, seven, twelve, twenty years past are moments spent in mutual revelation or wonder or admiration with another soul and that everything else in the meantime, save perhaps for a few treasured accomplishments or accolades, is fine print. Seriously, seek out your lasting memories. How many of them are alone? How many of them are all about you only?
Stop reading this blog entry. Call up an old friend. Or go visit them. And you’ll see what I mean.