I'm not even going to try to explain how I ended up in a stranger's car outside my house near midnight, passionately discussing the existence of God and the importance of belief with a Hasidic scholar of the Talmud who is having a crisis of faith. I am a firm believer in seizing every eccentric possibility life presents, never knowing which one is going to be the one I remember always, the one that redefined who, and how, I want to be in this world. This belief has led to many bizarre encounters and situations that, when I recount them to my mother years later, cause her to retire to her room for a 'nap'.
And, sometimes, they give me an eerie sense of disembodiment, as though I'm looking at someone else's life. Because this situation couldn't possibly belong in mine. I wonder sometimes if it wouldn't be better to just have a routine, keep one job and one city and one circle of friends and just be freaking NORMAL for FIVE MINUTES.
All of this was running through my head as I held the hand of a man I'd met an hour before and listened as he poured his heart out to me. And what struck me was: how similar we are. Seeing this man walk down the street in his forelocks and fringes and head covering, I would imagine his life: more productive, more learned, more pious thoughts than mine. Probably a sense of security to belong so certainly and obviously to something. Probably no interest in, say, Wicca, or transformation psychology.
But this man described a cartoon to me, and I laughed at the truth of it: on a New York subway, someone is looking around at all of the other passengers. A thought bubble above his head reads look at them all. staring blankly, reading, not a thought in their heads except getting through the day. I'm the only one who sees the meaninglessness of it all, the underlying truth, who feels the sword of life so keenly!
Thought bubbles over the heads of all the other passengers read exactly the same.
Talking with this man (who does, in fact, have a pronounced interest in transformation psychology, though I'd've been right about the Wicca) I could feel the pain I'd been living with the past few weeks subside: the pain of being shut out of someone's life without explanation, the pain of being rejected by people, institutions, sometimes even children, and how powerless it leaves you. Because the truth is, once you've been rejected, there is nothing you can do or say to win your way back in. The power is entirely in the other person's hands. And that does not sit well, does it? If I can just talk through something, I am always fine. But being shut out cuts that cord and leaves me questioning everything about myself, sure that I deserved it somehow.
But it is not true. The truth is, we all are just living these lives inside our own heads, completely unaware of the thoughts and motivations of others, shielded from raw human interaction by personas and professional roles and pat commentary and pretty outfits. Listening to this man, I realized suddenly that no one knows me, really. I don't even know myself! Nobody knows anyone else! We're changing all the time, and we don't follow any sensible trajectory!
This blog was just the beginning of what is turning out to be a multifaceted, all-consuming honesty project for me. A fitting transition into the study of psychology, no? I am practicing interactions with strangers that have no facade, no roles, no positive spins, no scripts. Not that I think all human interaction should be this baldly brave: I just want to know that I can do it. That there is someone in there underneath all the stories and situations and changing outer forms who remains the same.
And as I find her, it is becoming very clear that she looks just like everybody else. Which is to say: scared, confused, loving, wishful, unsure, lovely.