Hey, Where’d Everybody Go?   (2015Jul11)


Saturday, July 11, 2015                                                      10:16 AM

There are tides in the ceaseless shifting of society. Thus while one form of solitude is to be without companions, another form is to be disconnected from those tides. There are those on the autism spectrum who cannot gauge the tone of a roomful of people or the mood of a crowd. There are non-Christians who feel somewhat excluded by the ‘Christmas season’. There are little old ladies in Pasadena who don’t think to wait for the morning rush-hour to end before they slowly wend their cars to the Piggly-Wiggly.

Then there’s summer. How isolated we feel when we spend an entire week working in a near-empty office—the herd went on vacation and we missed the signals. It’s worse when our neighbors have all vanished—leaving only lawn-maintenance crews and renovation contractors, to insure that our solitude won’t be a peaceful one. Even the inter-web goes quiet in the depths of summer—leaving the few shut-ins like me to chatter amongst ourselves until society gets back in gear.

I’ve always had a horror of being left out—which is sad, seeing as I’ve never been ‘in’, as it were. And I have proved through experience that chasing the wave is a loser’s pastime—if the tide of events doesn’t carry you with it, you’ll find it’s always one step ahead of you. And for the innately excluded, history becomes an attractive pastime—after all, history is all about the crests of the waves of society—and they stand still, waiting to be closely scrutinized. We’re still not a part of it—but we can become expert in what we missed—something the present stubbornly refuses to allow us to perceive.

History is a sad consolation, however—we don’t know what’s going on, but after it’s happened, we can offer all kinds of theories on why it happened. The studious may have a deeper understanding than the intuitive, but that understanding only comes from being an outside observer of events. And explanations, after the fact, have a limited value—certainly nowhere near the power of those who have the alacrity to dance in time with the music.

Here we find a dichotomy that transcends the debate between the educated and the ignorant, the serious versus the superficial. Even among the ‘enlightened’ there will always be disagreement between those who have an inkling of our motivations and those who simply motivate. Entrepreneurs, for instance, are too busy succeeding at Capitalism to question or examine the system itself. Meanwhile scholars may have insights into Capitalism that go unrecognized by the players, simply because such scholars have no dog in the fight.

Beyond these philosophical differences, we have the daily confusion of stray people who go up the down staircase, who drive the wrong way down a one-way street, or who simply stand still in the middle of a busy Midtown sidewalk. Society could use an orchestra conductor—someone to keep us all in rhythm with each other. But leadership of such totality inspires visions of egomania, tyranny, and corruption. Still, there are chamber groups that perform without a conductor—how do they reach consensus? Such groups should be closely studied—they succeed at something we all need to learn.

Yet if society could learn to intuit its movements, shifting with the precision of an exultation of larks—that would just leave us, the out-of-step children, even more isolated. It seems that society is always begging for improvement—but any change always raises the specter of excluding some group, or restricting some impulse, or just taking the fun out of life. So we go on, an imperfect society, dreaming of a perfection we don’t really want. By wanting to exceed our humanity we court the inhuman.

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