I've also been reading LiveJournals for people who are friends of friends of friends of friends of friends of the LiveJournals I customarily read. I saw one had the meme "tell me what you think of me in one word", and I found myself barely able to resist typing the word "stranger".
This morning I'm tackling the problem of being "the other", and if you'd like to come along, please feel free to click .
I think the notion struck me when I passed the woman in the perambulator.She was not any particularly special woman, but just a woman walking her child home. I love kids, so I don't feel particularly alienated from people with children. I live under the truth or illusion that people with children are people, just like me, only they have children, which I don't have. I am always merely childless rather than child-free.
But as I walked by her, kite lost, kite string reel in pocket, needing a shave,
some middle-aged overweight guy, I thought to myself how I feel a distance from people. I always feel like "the other".
I'm not alone in this feeling. I read in LiveJournal that essentially, we are all "the other". We all feel outside some Great Within. I don't know why this is, and I know that the internet has taught us that we are all truly insiders in our feeling we are outsiders. But the feeling persists.
Perhaps it's the way in which our culture views things in terms of "pecking order". It's not just that some people have political power or extremely highly paid jobs.
Even in the most creative, fun pursuits, there's this pushing and pulling and comparing. There's this sorting of sheep and goats.
I'm not saying that all people are equivalent in their talents, or that differentiation is a bad thing. I play chess for a hobby. Nothing helps you understand that life is full of pecking orders than taking a hobby semi-seriously, and then getting mopped across the board by someone who is just brilliant, staggeringly beautifully brilliant, so brilliant that you'd trade something to be that brilliant, only you don't have anything to trade. Your list of trade-able tools is notoriously thin. That is to say--my list is decidedly threadbare. Shall we make stone soup?
I'm instead saying that the "feeling" of being an "other" really pervades and infects. It's a feeling with a jealous side to it--everyone else has a happier family, everyone else gets more affection, everyone else has more money, everyone else has more talent, everyone else is cooler and chic-er and more with it altogether.
But it's more than just the envy. It's that Area 54 thing. That thing that says "I am a space alien". Even the novels on these topics don't help, because so many of the people who said it best were nonetheless people who got to sit in Paris cafes with women with exotic names and fierce, unrequited devotion for these sad souls.
I thought to myself just the other night that some people who express the greatest longing for love are the people who, in my experience, sometimes have the most people throwing themselves at them. They don't want mere love, they want the "right type of love". Until then, they, too, are outsiders.
I often take pride that I feel only slightly out of place in any setting. But inherent in that notion is the embedded journalist that says that I feel out of place wherever I am. I take that back. I feel deeply at home if my wife and I are hiking someplace, or if I am driving in the middle of nowhere.
I bought a black and white throwaway camera, even though I have made a personal pledge to switch to digital camera pictures only. I feel that if I take shots of rural scenery in black and white, they will look like home. I might not be an outsider if my surroundings were monochromatic.
I'm reading a 1916 book called "It's All in the Day's Work" by a former president of Oberlin College, Henry Churchill King. Contrary to my usual practice, I have not googled him to make sure he's not an axe murderer or something in addition to a pithy motivational book author. I hope you'll forgive if he turns out to have been a founding member of some waywardly obnoxious secret society.
He writes something I like. "There can be no aristocracy in service". By this, he explains that people get all hung up about careers or achievements or one's place in the universe. All one can do is to figure out what one intends to do, and to do it. That's one's "day's work". I think that feeling like an outsider may be a healthy part of this process. The sensation of alienation can be a spur to help one find one's own voice.
This morning I'm puzzling how to embrace my inner outsider. I'm thinking that the outsider is not a state of being, but a comfort and a goad. I liked that the fellow in "American Splendor" got his comics out, even though he lacked even rudimentary drawing skills, and even though the effort did not propel him from being a medical records clerk. I like the notion that the work of a lifetime can sometimes be summed up in a monograph on the behavior of an obscure ant. I want to find my inner other, and let him know I am outside with him, right there with him.