I see the same people on the train every day, every week. These strangers are absorbed into their phones and books and music, or staring into shoes, knitting, whittling away myelin in nano-thin shavings to pass the daily stops in anticipation of home comforts and lifeblood launching points. We’re a group misalignment, disconnected nodes sharing a contained experience, rarely nodding or acknowledging each other. And we shouldn’t.
The domestic life, the stability we cherish, is also a deadening of the weird skin that sets us apart from each other. We blend together on this train, in plastic fleece and work shoes, well-worn lunch bags and overcoats, often a spectrum of exhaustion or distraction. I look at these same people every day with alienation, a void of camaraderie. A fear of assimilation, of normalizing yourself into a diminished approximation of the personality that’s gotten you through this life.
In general, the only people I want to connect with are the weirdos. Artists, derailed souls, unique personalities who shine or fight or live in isolated clouds. And the weird people that I love are always a little weirder than I am, dug a little deeper into themselves. So even then, there’s a disconnect. Weirdness can be disparate, incompatible, and when you’re used to not really connecting with people throughout your life you tend to either miss the opportunities for connection, or just remain in a state of poor social practice.
So I might see someone on the train who is a little more like me. Someone who isn’t comfortable in succumbing to suburban pleasantries. But even with that person, polarities are repulsive. We just want to suffer the ride, read books, listen to podcasts, and get out of the metal box, away from the strangers, away from quotidian reflections.
I cling to remaining an outsider, to defining myself by what I am not. The train is full of those people, and I’m inclined to judge them. It’s the easy way to make yourself feel better. Branding, and then juxtaposition from those simplistic categorizations. No one is simple, though. Every person riding in that car is a mushy stew of light and pain, a real bio-mess. I project labels of triviality onto people who I don’t know, who I would never take the time to know, even while my own thoughts and concerns, weak threads of passion and ambition, are just as complex and trivial.
Prejudice is simple-mindedness, inflating massive presumed history into a thin, momentary slice of another person’s existence, refusing to invest the time and intellect necessary to consider why someone lives a certain life or thinks a certain way. The “suburbs” become an ostracized nebula. The city becomes a distant carnival attraction. The fear each populace projects onto the other is bidirectional.
Here’s the deal: The greater your feeling of being “better” than everyone around you, the greater your failure as a human being.
The train is everywhere. A well-built life. Frameworks and Habitrails. Those aspects we construct for ourselves to stay sane, maybe constraining sanity’s spectrum to minimize dangerous variability. That’s what we are supposed to do, to settle into ourselves, build the base, flourish within. Branch out safely, strategically.
But I’m fighting against this. I want to “stay weird,” which is nearly impossible because the backlash of weirdness attacks you at every stage in life, every age, and you push through it, incorporate it, sometimes bend to it or allow it to derail you into an alternate path of identity. And as time unfolds, you understand that you aren’t the flavor of weird that you once were, and it becomes really hard to discern if this is just an element of overall change, as we constantly change and mature (and sometimes de-mature), or if you’re editing out the good stuff to keep on with a sustainable life.
And that, I suppose, is why I am often compelled to babble on in this blog. Clinging to that Jim-ness in some way.