Like most people, in my youth I assumed that I understood things. I did understand things but only as things, or worse yet, as collections of attributes of things, not as instances of classes of things. Probably; I can’t actually trust my memory, but these seem like true statements.
There has been for obvious and well-documented reasons a migration from longer-form writing on blogs and such to shorter-form utterances on social media. There is a phenomenon of an attention or interest budget, such that expressing sentiments in shorter, quicker bursts spends much of the motivation for saving them up into longer, more-discursive correspondence. We don’t tend to speak long-form; maybe the essay format, the long missives, arose only as a response to the communication infrastructure of the day, when writing short bursts was impractical. Perhaps the delay in delivery was too long to carry on conversations built with small blocks of fleeting sentiment. This is no longer the case, and we’re adapting.
That’s all well and good but there are other reasons my writing has slowed. I am becoming incrementally less ignorant, or at least I am becoming more aware of my ignorance. With this slight increase in clarity has come the realization that many of my ideas and observations and hypotheses, which may seem new and useful to me, are stunted relative to my contemporaries. Or, more thoughtfully, to the fabric comprised of my contemporaries. For two score and five years, I have mostly succeeded in staying aloof from people, which bought me some time for introspection at the expense of not having learned many of the social mechanics which are common facility. I have the great privilege to know people with these social skills and knowledge who are (mostly) patient with my shortcomings, but I’d rather spend as little of their energy on what they must consider my adorable idiosyncracies.
I’m not only talking about how to entertain when hosting a party, how to work in teams, and all that. I’m usually not too disappointed I’m not better at those things, except insofar as they are part of living a human life, which is really the point here. I’m mainly talking about our epistemologies, our ontologies, the way we understand anything and mostly how we do or don’t share in that effort. I haven’t figured anything out about life, not in all the posts that aren’t published here or elsewhere anymore, not with all my scribbling in notebooks, not on my Slack team—the Slack team of which I am the sole member, devoted to nihilism (I know)—except that we make choices, starting with “To be or not to be” and then deal with their consequences. The rub is that consequences are often nondeterministic and operate on different scales of a variety of dimensions such that making the choosing a matter of walking on quicksand. Cue eyeroll.
The only thing I’ve concluded is that sticking around means helping the people I care about—of any species—have fruitful lives, which requires some facility for understanding how people work and how even the most annoying people are just people with hopes and wishes and petty grievances and a good side. I don’t pretend to have the patience for it all, but I’ve resigned myself to faking it until I make it. Boy are my arms tired.
Back to the beginning of this thing, this thing which is a great example of its thesis. I’ve been keeping more and more thoughts to myself because I realize how little they add to any conversation, which is its own ongoing deconstruction of the sentiment of the preceding paragraph, and thus the girding of my self-blather and moodiness. I’m a little proud of how many times, after writing some dumb response on some dumb website, I just hit “Delete” or its analogue and move on, knowing nothing was lost. This little act of restraint, of self-realization, has helped me see toxicity, and especially online, anonymous-feeling toxicity, more clearly. Every time I hit “Submit” I stand a chance of committing the same kind of preening, egotistical self-pandering as we’ve collectively been wringing our hands about, one way or another. I hate “we all” statements but I think it’s safe to say anyone who might ever read this has had stupid, obvious thoughts, has reached conclusions or discovered things which are baldly fallacious or disingenuous or wrong or so basic and undeveloped critically as to be worthless. Seems there are those people who accept this and keep these things to themselves, and others who confuse them with insight. I’m generally in the latter camp (obvs) but trekking toward the former. I think.
I don’t know which this is, worthless or insightful. I do see the flaws in all these words; that first sentence is ridiculous. But here it is yet, as part of my halting attempt to join in the human endeavor with the mindfulness of a petulant infant but with some mindfulness all the same.