If this is a box, then get in it!

Almost completely irrelevant (and slightly skewed) quote for a title there, but hey, I’m a Storyteller fan.

“If this is a sack, then get in it!”
Image from http://www.henson.com/jimsredbook/2012/08/12/810-171987/

I categorise people. I box them. For better or for worse, (“for richer, or for poorer.”*) I give people labels to file them away under in my mind. I noticed just how general I made this habit the other day when I called someone selfish. Now, the one thing this person does that was being condemned was not entirely enough to earn the label ‘selfish’. The word is not even the most fitting or articulate to describe their bad habit. It made me check myself. What a strong, negative word to use to describe one of my friends. Why? Why do I feel that way about someone I hold fairly close? How can I be so dismissive? Are they expendable to me? It made me realise that for some people I make excuses. I accommodate their personal quirks and idiosyncrasies, make small adjustments. For some people, for some reason, I don’t do that.

I ran this by a friend, who reminded me that we exercise this judgemental practise because we do not have time to love everyone. Not 100%. We don’t have time to treat everyone equally; pay them the same amount of attention, affection, forgiveness, openness, interest, love. We have to draw the line somewhere. Yes, we may be unfair or unforgiving sometimes. But with the amount of people who come in and out of our lives, we could not possibly function if we were to devote each person the same amount of allowances and expectations. We would spend all day every day just maintaining relationships. We would be meeting from dusk till dawn, socialising, apologising, catching up, trying to progress. We would run down. Because being in the company of others is tiring. It’s a kind of service, almost.

No one else in the wide world will ever think exactly as you do. At least, not in a tangible way. How can I be so sure? It’s like Schrödinger’s cat. It can never be proved either way. You will never, ever, be able to tell for fact that someone else has had the exact same thought or opinion as you have. Perhaps owing to the nature of how we communicate, humans are most often making guesses and assumptions (not to mention assimilations – our memories, including event memory and personality memory** must have some bearing on how we interpret information as we receive it) from their interactions with others, because when it comes to hard science, it is impossible to do more than that. We may use ‘definitive’ language sometimes, but even the definitions have been agreed upon by humans, and carry human perception with them; which is as different from one person to the next as the variety between two snowflakes. Words and what we associate with them are as changeable as colours are undefinable and unknowable from one eye to the next. Maintaining a connection based on such different visions tied together with words is  difficult, unlikely, exhausting. (For me, anyway, who knows what everyone else thinks? Not me. Perhaps more telling about my own psyche and social skills than about human nature.)

So, we depend on very tenuous connections to maintain our relationships with each other. And these connections are constructed in our own minds, serving nothing but our own individual purposes. We decide what and who we care about, who we make the effort with, who we keep in our company. (In the privileged society I belong to, anyway.) And it is all based on our perceptions. This becomes rather a which-came-first situation for me; Do I dislike someone because they did this, or do I dislike that they did that because I dislike them as a person? At what point do we start or stop making excuses for people, attempting to understand them? What makes us dismiss them? Is it that we have arrived at the decision that we cannot gain anything more from them? They no longer serve their purpose? I do believe in ‘vibes’ somewhat; anyone with a decent ’emotional IQ’ can tell to an extent when someone is annoyed with them, hurt, sad, joyful, or carrying any other undertone in the subtext of their interaction. Obviously, emotional intelligence ranges as widely as a normal intelligence in humans, and so ‘signs’ must go missed or misinterpreted sometimes, just like language. Perhaps we base a lot of our internal relationship constructs and histories on tragically untrue assumptions. But hey, whatever works for us, right?

I am sure this is not where this train of thought ends, but I shall put it down for now. What are your thoughts?

*My best friend happens to be getting married today, which no doubt has had some bearing on all these philosophical/philanthropic wonderings.

**Personality memory being assumptions we have made based on eventual memories, in order to help us make quicker decisions in the future.

2 thoughts on “If this is a box, then get in it!

  1. O yes, your best friend is getting married. It can be seen (by you) as a personal and permanent connection with someone…something you have not yet received. It can hurt. Sometimes there are feelings of lack. But like you suggested in a round-about-way, none of us have the slightest clue what someone else is thinking at any given moment. Do you know what your significant other is thinking at this moment?

    Since none of us really knows what the person sitting across from us is thinking at any moment, it can make one feel all alone in this world. We know the person is present, yet at the same time, we don’t know all there is to know about the person. And that can make things interesting. Everyone in a way remains a mystery.

    • I don’t think that was at the forefront of my mind, although those feelings did come up during the week. It’s hard to completely avoid that when you’re not attached. And yes, I do think it’s fascinating that we can never truly know the people we’re interacting with. A bit wonderful, really.

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