On living among humans
Human beings are so bizarre. It took many years before I could grasp adequately the combinations of relations that can exist among numbers of sentiment-ridden friends. In my head, it’s all graph theory: vertices, formations in a ‘Z’, bridges and nodes with adjacency matrices and relational costs manifested in humans as motivation and want. I get the feeling that typical people come to the conclusions I have by experience alone, meaning trial and error in frequency, or perhaps it’s by upbringing. Thinking it out mathematically does take me a while longer, but I need more evidence than just the empirical. I’m convinced that the best of us enjoy living for amusement. The things that we as a species can plausibly endeavor to do, above any contempt, they are life’s profoundly cruel jokes on whatever existence we hope to find important. That is why, when I’m displaced into such a strange viewpoint, such a foreign enumeration of the same exact people I thought I did know, my graphs and charts need a long contemplation to readjust. It’s akin to a Square, seeing in 3-space Spaceland for the first time1.
Well, the great tragedy is no single human being can be knowledgeable in everything there is to know, but we try to learn from the best. Kurt Vonnegut wrote some of the most interesting books I’ve read, and I say they’re interesting because of the point of view he usually takes. As a preemptive measure against provincial thinking, he writes about human beings from the viewpoint of an extraterrestrial, or perhaps a solitary hermit, who maybe has a textbook education of interhuman relationships2, if that. Things that seem ordinary and customary down here on the planet’s surface are described with derision and justified with invalid, but oft employed lines of reasoning. The problem with this kind of writing is that we are not outside observers and should not act like them.
As a race, humans are supposed to learn, right? Sometimes, fundamental questions like these need to be accepted as axioms or else nonsensical questions about existence preclude any meaningful thought. So if we’re supposed to learn, then the purpose of learning must be its influence on the way we think and act. In a society of such cultivated individuals who suppress such carnal and animalistic forces for the sake of establishment and harmony, what do the sources of learning tell us in terms of how to behave? Again, I’m convinced that the best of us enjoy living simply for amusement. The less inhibition you harbor the more amusing the great tragedy seems. But with the things that I saw yesterday, I’m not so sure anymore. I don’t think I’ll be ready to find any more answers3 to existence until I’ve reconciled these observations into theory.