Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"Other People"

We live in a world of other people. There are over nine billion of us, but in fact all of humanity consists of only two beings: a "me"--the individual human being as seen to himself (okay, "himself/herself"...let's not get bogged down in political correctness here) and everybody else, or, as I call them, "other people." As an example of the infinite complexity and confusion of human existence, to me you qualify as "other people;" to you, I qualify. 

I know there's nothing like pointing out the obvious, but from what I can tell, obvious as it is, very few people apparently ever stop to think of this, or of how it affects nearly every aspect of our existence.

I suspect there's some form of mental teflon coating applied to the vast majority of humans at some point before birth which allows them, once born, to move through the mass of "other people" with a minimum of awareness of the nine-plus-billion-to-one ratio. There are, of course, a few of us who, being aware that the world is divided into "me" and "other people," find it far more difficult to maneuver smoothly through the world. While the term "other people" acknowledges that there are exceptions, the vast bulk of humans would fall into this monolithic category.

We look around at the "other people" surrounding us with the gnawing suspicion that they all belong to some secret and at times mildly sinister club in which "me" holds no more than an occasional guest pass. "Other people," true members of the club, have obvious perks and privileges not afforded to "me." Look at your peers, your neighbors, your co-workers, your friends and family. "Other people" almost never seem to get really, throwing-things-and-yelling frustrated. "Other people" appear casually at ease in any situation. When required to speak, "other people" always seem to know what to say, and how to express themselves clearly. While every human has problems, "other people's" are, from the ease with which they resolve them, never anywhere as complicated as those constantly harassing "me." "Other people" have more money, more friends and admirers, and are more successful and graceful. "Other people" are more brave, more kind, more thoughtful. "Other people" never let little things bother them. "Other people" would never think of writing a blog on the subject of "other people."

This vast, vague unity which "other people" share is, I suspect, the result of something in the human DNA. Since I cannot, much as I really would like to, accept the existence of a two-armed, two-legged God who has one iota of awareness of or concern for us as a race, let alone as individuals, DNA has to be the key to whatever there is that unites and guides "other people" (which, from your perspective as "me", includes, well, me. I did mention that all this is very complex, didn't I?).  Whatever it is, it is responsible for us forming civilizations and societies and families and relationships and paying taxes and stopping at red lights and impelling us to make ourselves into something more advanced than we are.

Before there were codified laws, we had established myths and legends, which served as unspoken but very real societal rules of conduct. The contentiousness and aggression which predated our standing erect were vital to our survival as a race and to separating ourselves from other animals. But as our numbers grew and we began gathering together in larger and larger groups, we realized the necessity for some sort of order. Counterproductive, negative, and downright dangerous actions are regrettably still with us, and the myth of Sisyphus, condemned to constantly push a huge rock up a hill is in fact an analogy for mankind trying to deal with the residual effects of our primeval past.

Whatever factors formed our societies and cultures have carved out and held us to a seemingly arbitrary set of to standards to which everyone is held, and to which everyone but "me" effortlessly conforms.

I suppose that those with the ability to walk among other people without the slightest awareness of all the niggles of interrelationships and with little or no thought to the disparities between "me" and "other people" are, in fact, blessed. But all things said and done, I'm really glad I'm not "other people." Not that I have much choice.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs ( ).


Kage Alan said...

Be careful saying such things, Mr. Grey. We're watching you.

Dorien/Roger said...

Aha! Thank you for confirming my suspicions! (Now where did I leave my tinfoil hat?)

Eleanor Raif said...

A teflon coating, eh? I must have missed out on that, because I have so many troubles dealing with people in my life.

I am beginning to feel a particular unkindness towards facebook that goes along with this post. I think facebook can intensify this feeling of 'other people'. Really that is all it is - 'other people' book.

This is something I actually think about often. Always feeling like the outsider, like everyone else knows some secret you don't know. They must, why else would they have things so together and it seems so effortless? Its only natural to draw that conclusion I suppose. Also there is the general distrust of those who don't know you, and who you don't know.

As always, thanks for sharing. It makes you a little less 'other people'ish to me. ;)

Dorien/Roger said...

Eleanor, this is exactly why I write so many blogs about feeling like an outsider. I believe it is far more commonly shared emotion than people realize. The world is, after all, comprised of people who are "me" and acknowledging it can hopefully provide some degree of comfort.