This will be one of the entries that will probably not be particularly enjoyable to read. It wasn’t particularly enjoyable to write, either, but hopefully it will lead to some understanding. If you read it, read it till the end, as stopping halfway through on this one is not going to give you the whole picture.
It sounds pretty terrible to say, but I really don’t care for people. I state this simply and without any particular qualms. Some people don’t like dogs or cats or broccoli, but I don’t like people. I don’t like most of what they do, say, or think. This is one of the not particularly ‘nice’ truths about me that most people probably don’t know. I am unfailingly polite, and this is what people usually see. I gather that they must assume this means I’m a generally agreeable person and enjoy their company. That’s not generally the case. Politeness is more of a practiced habit for me, and it is more reflective of my own thoughts and values about what is right than the way I actually feel about people.
Now, let me be clear. When I say I dislike people, I don’t mean that I think people are bad or anything of the sort. I do not mean that I ‘hate’ people, or that I wish anyone any ill will. I do not ‘hate’ anyone. Hate is a usually destructive and otherwise useless concept and I very much dislike hatred in any form. Indeed I have come to believe that almost nobody is really ‘evil’, and most people are decent enough, just trying to find some measure of happiness in this world, the same as everyone else. No, when I say I dislike people, I mean simply that usually I’d rather not be around them, and the more there are, the more unpleasant I find them.
Explaining why is difficult. I have never entirely succeeded in getting anyone to understand this. I see a person as an individual. If I like that person, I don’t mind being around them. If I dislike that person, I just don’t want to be around them. That part is simple enough, and that would be the end of the explanation, but when you put a whole group of people together, their behavior as individuals is somewhat repressed or otherwise changed by the presence of other people. Most people don’t seem to be aware of the extent to which their personality becomes pliable in the presence of others. Moreover, I’ve found the larger a group of people get together, the less they are themselves and the more they act as ‘part of the herd’. Some of the individuality is sacrificed for conformity. Individual behavior in a group condition becomes, to me anyway, tedious and boring at best and often frustrating, annoying, and inconvenient. It’s as if people change what they say and do in increasing degrees in order to be ‘part of the group’ and appear to be the same kind of person as everyone else. I should know, because this is the way I learned how to fake it myself.
I’ve written before on how I can ‘fake’ normal for a while. This is another one of those things which seem to happen naturally for others that I have to really work at. I stay quiet at first until I figure out things about the people I’m around like political leanings, family background, etc. I use all sorts of clues to figure these things out that I’ve learned over the years, kind of like a Sherlock Holmes trying to quickly glean information from what kind of clothes people wear or what kind of car they drive and so on. Needless to say, this gets more difficult the more people are around, and it doesn’t have to be too large a group before it’s nearly impossible for me to do anything but nod every so often and try not to fall too far behind the conversations.
The sad thing is that I really enjoy talking to people one on one. I find there is nothing more fascinating than conversing on topics of interest with those of differing views. There is only so much wisdom that can be gained by simple observation from one’s own point of view. Just exploring the views and opinions of others can be more enlightening than hours of serious thought or volumes of written information. Some of my fondest memories are conversations with parents or siblings or good friends. I find conversation to be enormously beneficial and consider it to be a very important part of life, mine in particular.
Frustratingly, there are remarkably few occasions when two individuals directly interact with only each other. Most of the activities people seem to enjoy most are in the form of group activities, which invariably seem to gravitate towards the same mindless ‘small talk’ that I find most tiresome. Listening to a group of more than 10 or so people is pretty much the same experience for me regardless of which 10 people it is or what we’re doing. It’s just people repeating the same safe phrases and safe topics so they can derive some invisible benefit just from being in the same general vicinity. They could be speaking Chinese and it wouldn’t matter to me (so long as they didn’t expect me to actually say something in Chinese back). Perhaps it’s simply that my brain lacks the ability to process so much information so quickly, so it all ends up a jumbled mess, or perhaps it’s just that I don’t benefit from socializing in the same way ‘normal’ people do. If I had the answer to that question, I’m quite sure I wouldn’t be writing it for free in a blog. This is just how things are for me. A lot of things that most people enjoy (parties, events, etc.)., I find absolutely insufferable, and this is the biggest reason. Even in a group of good friends and people I like in general, I can only handle so much before I become incredibly tired.
There are some pretty meaningful implications to this for me that go beyond the obvious. I don’t really consider myself part of any society, or culture, or ethnicity, or anything like that. I know what box to check on what form, but I don’t really identify myself with any particular group. I tend to resist almost reflexively any attempt others make to get me to identify with any particular group. Those who know me know I’ve always had a stubborn streak when it comes to being told what to do or what to think or who to associate with. I do things my own way. I have my own motivations and values. I have no interest in how others perceive me in terms of wealth, social status, etc. There are certain individual persons whose opinions I do care about, but as for the usual things which convey status or social identity, I simply have no interest.
Nor have I ever felt the particular need to belong to a particular religious group. My faith is Christianity. This is how I was raised and what I believe, and I have at various points attended church, but in the end, I always find that the spirituality is less important to others than it is to me, and the idea of identifying oneself with a particular church or social group is the more important psychological component for others. I don’t intend to argue with anyone about this either. It is what it is. If you think you’re going to change my mind, you may as well try to fit a camel through the eye of a needle. I believe in Jesus and his message that we should treat others as we would would like others to treat us. If a wiser sentence was ever uttered in human history than the Golden Rule, I do not know what it is. What I do not believe in are the ridiculous quarrels about this or that particular doctrine or dogma that currently divide Christianity, or other religions for that matter. Faith is one thing, and religion quite another, but that’s another topic entirely.
Now, to finally come to the point, the words from the title come from a song I heard when I was about 15 or 16. This was a time when I was a great deal more detached and aloof than I am now. Not that I’ve ever been a particularly outgoing or sociable person, but there have been times in my life when I have become almost entirely disconnected from society and culture and almost everything that has to do with this world. In those times, the only way I could find any peace was to withdraw into myself, my thoughts, my feelings, my fantasies, my ideas. Where the world outside was constantly changing and chaotic, the inner world of my thoughts and feelings was calm and serene. From that point of view, the world of ‘society’ looks very much like a colony of ants. They all seem to be walking in step to a rhythm that I can’t hear, following invisible paths that I can’t see, lining up and following one another without thinking or questioning . Do they follow by choice or by instinct? What makes them stay in those little lines? Do they even see the world outside the paths laid out for them? Please don’t misunderstand, I do not mean to belittle anyone in particular, but on the other hand, I rather do mean to belittle everyone in general. A person is one thing. Most are decent. Some are very good. A very few are very bad. Some are very complex and others quite simple, but all are unique and have their own thoughts and feelings and are interesting in their own way. ‘People’ collectively, are another thing entirely, and their behavior is generally repetitive, tedious, predictable, sometimes destructive, highly irrational, and often lamentably foolish; and as I stated right up front, I don’t much care for people. It’s that side of humanity that, frankly, I could do without.