20 July, 2009

If there were no people...

It's not that I don't have the desire to go out into the world. But what keeps me holed up inside my protective shell is people, and my fear of them. Ignoring the fact that much of society would simply crumble and lose all meaning in the absence of people, it's interesting to speculate about how my activities would change if all of a sudden I was the only person on the face of the planet.

So what would it be like if I woke up one evening, and the world was conspicuously devoid of humanity?

To start with, I can draw from some actual experiences. Usually, when I wake up and head off to take a shower, I can hear the standard noises coming from downstairs that basically indicate that a person is there. Television, radio, oven beeping, sink flowing, footsteps going back and forth, or up and down stairs, coughing perhaps - indications of human presence. These sorts of things naturally make me very selfconscious, but I do my best to ignore them and go about my business (quietly). However, every once in awhile it'll be quiet - and this is rare - for one reason or another. I'm always more comfortable in those instances (assuming, that is, that the quietness presupposes an absence of presence and not a quiet or concealed (if not intentionally) presence - which actually has a tendency to increase my discomfort, with an absence of sound to mask my own presence underneath, and a concentration, if it were, on any minor breach of that quiet). Sometimes, and this is very rare, it'll be the case that "the one downstairs" is for some reason out and thus dealing with dinner is up to me. Ignoring the potential difficulties of procuring a meal (said difficulties mostly arise from considerations of having to come to an agreement with "the others" on the meal situation, which invariably involves communication, as well as the prospect of potentially having to interact with people in the outside world to procure said meal) - *without* these considerations, all that is left is the supreme comfort of eating at my leisure in what is an empty house. Selfconsciousness goes completely out the window and I can just relax and be myself (which is not at all possible in the usual presence of the standard others).

Anyway, the point of all this babbling on is that in a fundamental and permeating sense, I would be more relaxed and happier and less stressed out in my normal everyday goings on in the absence of people. This, indeed, is the primary motivation for my nocturnal lifestyle - at night, I don't have to worry about people buzzing around here and there, potentially moving in and out of my presence, constantly triggering my anxiety-laden defenses. But even at night there's the need to be relatively quiet to avoid waking others (I can't tell you the percentage of stress arising from the cat's incessant yowling that results from the fear of waking others and otherwise generally attracting attention to my doings, and not from the sheer fact that her loud shrieks are just plain grating to the ear, not to mention that their unrelenting quality simply gets annoying after the first few seconds). At any rate, the absence of people is even better than a nocturnal existence, not just because I enjoy the merits of day (and day has its merits), but also that I have no restrictions on making noise or fears of startling "the sleeping giant", as it were.

Next, the issue of going outside. Particularly in the warmer months, such as we are currently in the midst of, I many days have the desire to go out while the sun is still up and absorb the atmosphere of the air and environment at large. Most of these desires go unfulfilled, as I allow myself to be pulled into the solace and solitude of the myriad distractions so lovingly presented to me via my computer - distractions that do not employ any sort of interpersonal interaction, or even any threat of potential interpersonal interaction (leastwise not involving real faces and real voices in realtime). There are two main obstacles, otherwise, to my gaining access to the outside world. The first is the unknowing guardian who in no formal way bars my passage, but the very act of passing his notice acts as a psychological deterrent to that very passage. I don't want to have to explain my paths or my intentions, and I don't want to have to suffer the unavoidable, if unfounded, mental shilly-shallying about foreign conjectures as to said paths and intentions, not to mention the imagined potential value judgements that could then be applied, and the myriad avenues of thought and action and judgement that those presume...

In addition to all that is the simple fact that, except in the relative emptiness of night (and under the cloak of darkness), *there are people out there, in the world*. And "people" is not something I have much desire to interact with. Surely, one can avoid interaction, but this is not an airtight solution. If one were to approach me, I would be even more disinclined to shrug them off (except in a polite and convenient manner if at all possible), than to provide for them nothing but the friendliest and most amicable front I can muster (which may or may not be saying much). However, even without interaction, or even threat of interaction, is the constant buzzing of imagined foreign perceptions. Even in the absence of people - provided that it is understood that there *are* people, just not noticeably within range. But in the knowing absence of people - where they are not just out of sight, out of mind, but actually completely and utterly out of the equation, all of the above neurosis is rendered completely nonexistent.

So, in the true absence of people, I would go outside a lot, and enjoy the weather. I would go for walks much more often, and in daylight. I would ride my bike places. I would practice guitar outdoors - which is very nice to do in the warm weather (I have done it but a few times, and never any farther than the back porch). I would go out and explore the world and what it has to offer, without the people buzz to frighten me. I would take my camera, and I would take many pictures of all kinds of beautiful scenes. One thing that causes me to fear carrying a camera around and doing the photographer thing in public is an extension of that selfconsciousness, and the fear of the possibility of my encroaching on another's sense of personal privacy. Whether pointing a camera at a person (even if it is just the general direction, or at a person way off in the distance) or even just at a person's house, or car, or table at a restaurant, or pet, or whatever else, I fear not only people's (inter)reactions, whether positive or (much worse) negative, but also the value judgements aforementioned. "Why is that person pointing that camera at that house." "Why is that person taking pictures of that." "What is that person thinking." "Is he dangerous." "Is he eccentric." Et cetera.

I think perhaps I have gotten my point across, if my language is a bit verbose and highly unpolished. But this is more akin to the sort of spontaneous thinking that goes on (constantly) in my head, minus the thinking over (and over thinking) that generally goes into presenting any of my ideas to an outside observer.

And, in closing, it is imperative that I mention that, barring a possible chemical solution I have yet to try, my neurosis is simply NOT A THING THAT CAN JUST BE "SWITCHED OFF" (i.e., "just stop thinking/worrying about it"). Thank you.

1 comment:

  1. Lately I've been finally coming to terms with the fact that you and I -- inarguably -- suffer from an anxiety disorder. There's no other way to describe our fear and avoidance. It's a serious and sincere disorder which cripples our ability to function, we can be certain of that much. And you know they have things that can cure it.