Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Schroedinger day

On my way into the gym today, I passed by at least 3 people who didn't see me and who ran right into me. This all occurred within a less-than-five minute period. It made me feel invisible.

I'm not small. I'm wearing a bright red shirt. But that few minutes made me feel like I don't even exist, today.

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Over the weekend, Dan and I watched two movies that had, on the surface, nothing in common, but when I thought more about them I realized that there was quite a bit of similarity in some of the themes. The two movies were Big Fan, starring Paton Oswalt, about a man whose entire life and identity and self revolves around his fandom for the New York Giants, and The Hurt Locker, about a bomb squad serving in the military in Iraq. I very, very, very much disliked Big Fan, and in fact it left me completely cold and kind of disgusted; I didn't like any of the characters or the story and mostly I just felt a vague mix of nausea and pity for the man who had no selfhood outside of being a Giants fan. In contrast, I very much enjoyed The Hurt Locker, the main character of which is kind of crazy and whose identity is completely wrapped up in being The Guy Who Does Crazy Shit Like Diffuse Bombs In Iraq While Taking Unnecessary Risks. Perhaps the difference, aside from Hurt Locker being a much better movie, was that the main character didn't garner pity. The main characters in both movies were portrayed as being at least somewhat lost when unable to participate in The Thing That Makes Them Them, and I found it interesting that in one case I really appreciated it while in the other I just wanted to throw up in my mouth a little. In any case, though I'm not generally a fan of war movies, I give The Hurt Locker two enthusiastic thumbs up.

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Sometimes I wonder about these things, what makes people who they are. Is the definition of a person what he likes? What she does for money? What he fears? What she wants? What makes me who I am? And why do some people seem to have no doubts whatsoever about their identity, while others change theirs up over and over again? Is a person truly who they think they are, regardless of anyone around them? Or must someone be observed by someone else in order to truly exist? Do people get married and/or have children, in some small part, to have people that MUST notice their existence? What about people who are older, have lost friends and family, shut-ins? What about people who go days or weeks without seeing or speaking to another human being?

I don't have the answers to any of these questions. But I will say that feeling like one does not exist when one seems to go unnoticed by those around one is a very lonely and bizarre feeling.

8 comments:

Simon said...

What makes me ME is a question that haunts me most every day. It started with "what makes a person successful," and became "what is greatness," which became "what differentiates me from the six billion people on the planet."

it's exhausting sometimes.

Simon said...

What makes me ME is a question that haunts me most every day. It started with "what makes a person successful," and became "what is greatness," which became "what differentiates me from the six billion people on the planet."

it's exhausting sometimes.

Laurel said...

I can see you Em, and you're beautiful!! :) I don't know much about the meaning of life except that we probably won't have any real answers until we're old and wrinkly. In the mean time, we just have to remember how lucky we are, all things considered and to keep on brushing the sticks and leaves off our path and on our way.

mennogirl said...

While this idea might have some level of unhealthiness in it if taken to an extreme, a big part of how I define myself is by relationships with the people around me. Not in a superficial comparison way (at least not on my good days) but in a sister, friend, housemate, daughter, cousin way. I am indeed more than just these labels, I appreciate the way they help define my life.

But I know what you mean by those questions, I tend to spend a lot of time trying to figure out just where exactly I am going with my one little life.

Leah said...

For me, I definitely feel like I need to be "witnessed" in order to have a fulfilling existence. That doesn't mean I let others' perceptions define who I am but merely that I need to be noticed in some way, by some one. (Usually that's Simon, but it also spills over into why I have a public blog.) I just don't feel right when the things I do disappear into a vacuum of nothingness.

That said, people run into me all the time (apparently I'm a very quiet walker), but even stranger than that is I have a hard time getting automatic doors at grocery stores to open for me, even when I'm driving a cart. I usually have to wave my arms around to get the doors to open. Does this mean I'm a vampire?

Cilicious said...

hah
There is nothing more invisible in today's society than a (old and wrinkly) middle-aged woman.
But yes, at my point in time, which is age 55, you've supposedly either developed your identity or at least come to terms with it, but nothing must be permanent.

jiveturkey said...

I feel the same way Leah does, although I can generally get automatic doors to open for me. But I can't see my reflection in a mirror. WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

jiveturkey said...

Oh, and the fact that those people didn't see you & ran right into you says a lot more about them than it does you. You're rad.