On the "realness" of human beings

Published Sat Aug 18, 2018 11:02 PM PDT

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and wanted to write about it. It's a bit abstract or complicated, but seems worth commenting on... the idea has proven illuminating for me, particularly with regard to social interaction.

Perhaps because I tend to be a bit narcissistic, or self-centered, my view of the world has for a long time been what I'd describe as "romantic". I've always loved dramas, and great stories. Anyway, my view of the world has always struggled for what psychologists call a "narrative identity", a root purpose of my existence, a "causa sui". While I always certainly recognized that other people were real and alive, the focus was very much internalized on my own emotional feelings and thoughts. That remains true, but this idea has helped me see other people in a different light.

Increasingly, I've tried to separate my interactions with other people from the "grand narrative" of my own life. They are no longer simply players on the stage, but rather, people living alongside me, in the same moment as me. And the way I act around them, doesn't have to conform to some internal struggle with profound significance. It can simply be two people who are sharing a time frame, and a place, and so increasingly I see how what I say or do can fundamentally shift the tone of relationships, and conversation.

Perhaps this is basic "awareness" for most people, and I'm sure I've been cognizant of it many times throughout my life, in my healthier mental states, but at times where life was perhaps difficult for me, my self-absorption would triumph over the appreciation of other people. It's only recently I've started to understand this idea intellectually or rationally, and see how my words and actions can be useful in interaction, to help heal the other person, outside some grand romantic narrative.

Maybe my love of art and existential philosophy helped fuel my self-centeredness, or maybe it's something innate in me. Or maybe, it's a product of some trauma in my life, or something like that... or maybe I'm just maturing a bit. I wouldn't describe this newer ideology as "materialist" because it seems quite compatible with the spiritual elements of my life. Nor is it "egalitarian" or anything like that. It's more just an understanding of my own control of my own words and actions, and how they influence the people around me.

This doesn't dismiss the idea of a grand "divine plan", rather, the idea seems to help me to embrace it, to see another person as my brother, so to speak. Oddly enough, I've always ranked very highly in compassion in personality tests, but it seemed my compassion was reduced to a subset of people, based on circumstance. Mostly, my compassion has always found itself strongest when consuming art, in solitude. Around people, my general strategy has been to remain aloof, and even, I admit, to be difficult.

There are exceptions, of course. Particular people who I felt a kinship towards, people who were unusually friendly with me. But my general tendency to judge and dismiss others is stronger and more developed than that of most people. This is the thing I want to work on, both for realist and religious reasons.

The core idea is to realize that despite your current emotional state, you can always direct your thoughts a little bit towards the feelings of those who you are interacting with. This is true despite the circumstance. You can make them feel loved, if you really want to. I've noticed a cyclical tendency in my thoughts; whenever I read the things I wrote years ago, I often have the same "epiphanies" over and over. But, it never hurts to write down these thoughts again.

Thank you for reading.