Sunday, April 11, 2010


"People are never really emblematic of anything. Alive or dead, they constantly contradict themselves and turn out to contain unexpected elements."

Jonathan Rosen, The Talmud and the Internet

I've recently developed the skill of observance. It's quite new to me-- I was always self-involved, with a belief in personal privacy. But now I find people fascinating. Their actions, their words. The question of what drives behavior constantly haunts me.

And so I lust after stories, seeking childhood memories and inner reflections. Adversely, I find myself constantly waiting to share, an inner typhoon of reminiscences longing to be set free. Images of sneaking through fences and climbing on roofs, summers on the trampoline and autumn walks through the cemetery fill my lungs and struggle up the esophagus, yearning to slip past the lips but halted by self-consciousness.

Instead of discussing myself, I press others. What was elementary like? Who was your favorite teacher? What is the worst trouble you have ever gotten in? Where are you in your family? Do you think that has effected your outlook in life?

I am still painfully awkward at questioning people. Years of stifling my innate curiosity has left me blunt and unskilled. But the only way to get better is through practice, and I am filled with this need to know. Why do we act the way we do? What shapes us, what makes personalities? These are the answers I seek.

Despite the roughness of my approach, I feel I've gotten slightly better at reading the unspoken cues, understanding the subtle hints in language and demeanor. And I've been able to glean more out of casual conversation, learning more about others than they would probably like.

There are still many miles to go in my quest, but even in the short time I've become interested in discovering people, I've unearthed some useful facts. Namely, everyone is searching for definition, but their journey is in vain.

The world cannot be placed in a nice tight philosophy, and neither can a person. Situations change, opinions change, and there are no set rules, no matter how appreciated such things may be. The surest way to solidify an event is to firmly decide the opposite is true. So it is with people. We can think that we are THIS, but even as we settle on it, our cozy thought pattern begins to disintegrate, taking our firmly decided THAT with it. So we must embrace flexibility, accept the belief that nothing is concrete.

This isn't to say there aren't Universal Truths. There most certainly are, and they are the only anchor in the chaos that is existence. But to try and add other anchors, spread across distances among the sea of life, that is to invite frustration and hypocrisy. The only way to survive is to move with the current and stop trying to pin things down in a neat explanation. Some things don't work, and the factors are so unique that to try to apply similar reactions to different situations is a recipe for failure.

Basic rundown: people are unpredictable, but are a constant source of inspiration. Looking at others and acknowledging the lessons they offer is an important gift in life, but don't become too obsessed with trying to relate it to yourself. We are unique. This is the most wonderful thing about humanity. Observe others merely as a scholarly and artistic pursuit, but any answers about the self will be found as the years pass, and will unfold in their own manner. Once we stop trying to figure it out, it will all be much easier and vastly more enjoyable.


Symantha said...

Dude I love people-watching. It's quite entertaining lol.

Dana said...

Every time I read your blog, I remember your post about how you realized you weren't a writer, and I think, Cat is crazy, she is an insanely talented writer and she can do whatever she wants, mostly because you are so talented, but also because you are so rad. (ps you're not cool, you are soo totally rad). So think about that why don't you!! Ps this is weird but I saw tagged pictures of you on Facebook and your hair has gotten so long! I like! Lets get together and be nerdy soon! Ps are you in my 495 class?? PLEASE say yes!

Sierra Robinson said...

I've thought about these same things too... Sometimes I wonder how different humans are and how the same we are. What if... We were all raised by like... clones of the exact same parents? To what degree are we a "tabula rasa?"

Maybe I'm projecting my own postulations into your blog. But your blog was beautiful; I quite enjoyed it.