Feeling isolated in body but connected in mind.
|The bus' engine is doing the work; I am moving serenely through space and time. Ingeniously compressed data is being transformed by silicon and electricity into pleasant aural distraction. Snow is falling; this part of Creation is blanketed therewith, constituting a pleasant visual distraction... Thus pass the moments and the kilometers. Yet within me a maelstrom rages. Anger and hurt and various untold and unacknowledged sufferings swirl and twist, curl and twine. For to look upon beauty --in the form of youth, for example, to whit: a young man of nineteen summers appointed with all the accoutrement appropriate to his position as inheritor of a lower-middle-class station in this our early twenty-first century Western society, skin unblemished, hair short, unselfconsciously unconscious, flashy headphones shifted nearly antipodal to his ears by action of his drooping head against his bright orange and red inflatable pillow, the structure of his face softened nigh to the sublime by the tender caress of snow-reflected light-- to look upon beauty and to see how that beauty relates to all the other human beauty one sees every day but which one has not the courage to interact with leaves one feeling disconnected; outside the beauty; not of the beauty; not beautiful; not seen by others as beautiful; not included amongst the beautiful; isolated... Seeing one's self as set apart is inextricably related to seeing others as setting one apart. Becoming desensitised to feeling disincluded involves ceasing to give others the opportunity to include one.
Others may argue, but I take this powerful disinclination to be isolated as an aesthetically satisfying attestation in support of the notion that we, as identities, are not, in fact, in the realm of knowledge and ideas, as separate from each other as we think we are. It is comforting to contemplate that the suffering caused by social isolation derives in part from disharmony between an undeniable perception that we are physically isolates and a reality that as a conglomeration of symbols and knowledge there is no clearly describable boundary between minds.
What is a mind, what is a personality, if not the sum of our memories, our learned responses to the various environments we encounter, and our individually generated theories about the way things are, were, and will be? And where does all this knowledge come from? Whether we like it or not, it comes from our mothers and fathers; from our grandparents and childhood friends. From the books we read in grade school, and the novels we read during our teenage years. From our first lovers and from those who first spurned us. From our heroes and from our enemies.
Our minds are sponges, absorbing ideas and concepts from everyone and everything we encounter, via whatever medium we choose to expose ourselves to. We organise, we adjudicate, we categorise this incoming onslaught. How we relate each item to everything else depends in part on how we feel about the source. We appropriate wholesale our loving mother's tongue. But we enter our alcoholic father's behaviour under the heading "do the opposite of this."
Our environment, social and natural, stimulates this ever-expanding network of ideas and concepts and thereby causes us to generate thoughts and responses that relate only to ourselves. When a situation to which we must respond (be it a singular snowscape or a singularly annoyed friend) arises, everything we have ever absorbed is instantaneously --almost mystically-- synthesised with current circumstances and out pops a response unique to ourselves. The uniqueness, the individuality of this response is beyond questioning. It is the general tone of these responses that constitutes our personalities.
Being a very analytical personality I often look carefully at such responses. I will often explicitly trace a response to its sources: the core of this response is a fragment of my grandfather; that aspect relates to what my seventh-grade science teacher incidentally taught me about self-respect; the word choice is an echo of three different authors whose novels I read while in grade school; this atmosphere of openness is a negation of a fragment of my father... I can continue such a process for as long as I care to, the end result is always the same: this response relates in some way to every one I've ever interacted with. And those myriad personalities yield to the same analysis, so there exists also a relation to everyone they have interacted with. And by induction, there exist relations to everyone who is or has ever been.
There are of course concentrations of attributability, but ultimately no circumscription can encompass every influence. Each mind uniquely reflects aspects of all other minds. Society is like a contiguous vitreous mass of individual regions each with its own particular colour and refractive index. Ideas pass through society in the same way light passes through such a substance: constantly changing direction, polarity, and hue as each region makes its unique imprint; a veritable scintillation of meaning, as unpredictable as the coruscations of sunlight glinting off the snow-laden pine boughs passing innumerably by the motor coach window...
And so my body is unitary, and separate from all the beauty that I might want to interact with (he sleeps yet, the beauty across the aisle; his earphones have slipped off his head completely, and when I remove my earbud I can faintly hear the music they emit; it is a track I happen to have on my laptop and I call it up, the same music influencing both our minds.) But my mind and the minds that animate all the people I so often feel isolated from are not, it seems, so separate. And so I relax as the bus continues to carry me onwards. Some of the maelstrom has quieted; some of the hurt is assuaged. It seems that the road is leading to a future that feels a little less isolated. My negative feelings have dissipated like a yell attenuated in a wintry forest: its sound absorbed by a quietudinous blanket of snow.