On the train, dressed for work, surrounded by other commuters, with all that steel and concrete stretching for miles, and the Capitol and the heart of our government plainly visible...when I'm in the right mood, there's no time when I feel more like just a cog in a gigantic machine. I feel like society is emergent, which means simply that the sum is somehow greater than its parts. And I wonder why, why we are doing this, and whether any of us really notice what we're doing or whether we're just too wrapped up in pretending we're never going to die. I don't believe there's any teleology to "civilization", but how can you not wonder how we got here and where we are going?
Then I look back into the train, at my fellow passengers. Their ties, tattoos, books, rap music, assortment of sizes and shapes and races and ages. We might be anywhere on the globe, doing anything, but we're here. And we are each wrapped up in our little worlds, our individual problems. And while my problems seem important to me, I know 90% of their problems would make me laugh (the other 10% would no doubt humble me and make me feel terrible for laughing). But they'd laugh at most of my problems, too.
I wonder why we are so self-absorbed as individuals, as a species. Of course a complete lack of self-absorption means pretty quick death, but ours seems excessive. The environment to us is just a passive substrate on which we build our buildings and enact our dramas. It's like that wacky drug-addled space where my video counterpart lives: is there wildlife in there? what kind of trees are those? are those hills in the distance, and how did they form?
Does anyone care about any of that? What does the rainforest mean to me when there are widgets to be bought and sold and my favorite TV show is on tonight?
And I want to write something that shows this, that shows just how small we are, just how much we miss being so wrapped up in ourselves, focused on money and how we're going to get that assignment done and what Betty posted on Facebook yesterday.
And then, speaking of money, I know there's a reason Snooki draws viewers and the kind of thing I'm talking about might make bad science fiction or possibly even good nonfiction but it will never reach huge numbers of people. And then I think that my desire to do this seems somehow antithetical to the point of literature itself. Except maybe it's not. But I think it might be antithetical to literature because literature is about humanity (says I with absolutely no background), and humans are about other people (this I can say with confidence). If we have no value to others then we have no value to ourselves.
Belimperia found this for me - comes from here.
You can torture a person just by putting them alone in a room and locking the door for a while. I mean, think about it, at face value isn't that totally fucking crazy? You haven't physically hurt them, you haven't even emotionally hurt them. You just...left them alone too long.
And I wonder whether any book labeled The Bible would resonate as much with so many people, would allow them evidently to find such endless wisdom...or whether it resonates because it is - at a certain level - simply brilliant literature that taps directly into the human experience.
Then I can't help but think of my own life and wish I controlled more of my own time. Which then makes me feel ungrateful since things are going so well. But this wasn't what I envisioned for myself when I was young and the world made absolutely no sense. How much sense does it really make now? It struck me as ultimately absurd back then, and it still does. What if I had taken a different path?
I start to think about my constraints and my choices and my relationships with other people, then wonder fundamentally why I have to be dragged kicking and screaming into acknowledging I'm as human as everyone else. Everyone else seems to embrace it but at some point I picked up the idea that needing other people is weak, even as everything in my experience serves to belie that attitude.
And so, ironically, my thoughts of big things lead me squarely back to thoughts of myself. I've proven myself wrong. And usually by this time the train has gone underground and I so resign myself to being just a cog for another day.