Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Social Disinterest

I wonder so much about people. Even people that I'm seemingly disinterested in (customers in a busy cafe, for example) I'm secretly very curious about. It is just unfortunate that I don't have the time to express that interest in them. I have an economic exchange to finish, I can't be interested in you right now.

A bit ago I was walking outside and I was struck by the need to write something about dogs. This is what I wrote:

"I was walking outside sometimes past people but often by myself. I was breathing something in and I was thinking about anything. I was moving and I kept on thinking. I didn’t mind the cold as much as I do some nights. It wasn’t as cold as those nights. I kept going. I went down some stairs and turned some corners. I walked up a hill and I saw a few people.

Then I saw some people with a black dog. I kept my distance. My night wasn’t for hurrying home. My night was for strolling. I strolled behind them. I watched the black dog sniff. I planned to go around them if the black dog should feel the need for a longer investigation.

But something new happened. Another dog. A white dog. I watched the white dog. It was much brighter than the black dog. I watched the dogs meet. Their tails wagged. Their owners stopped and let them say hi. The owners exchange words. The dogs bowed and looked at one another. They wanted to be friends. The starting point of their meeting was interest. They were curious and excited about one another. Their meeting just produced some kind of energy, some buzz. I liked seeing it.

Someone once told me that they liked dogs because you always knew where you stood with them. It was always clear to them how a dog was feeling and how they should respond to that dog. They also felt that humans weren’t always clear. Thats just the obvious implication of their statement. 

They are right. Humans aren’t as easy to read. But why not? Because of language and its capacity to create a symbolic order. Language creates a social organization that is both constituted by and constitutive of the human mind. In other words, the human mind expresses itself and creates a symbolic order that is acknowledged by many people. Once it is collectively acknowledged it takes on a life beyond the individual mind. Yet, that symbolic order never exists anywhere but in people’s minds.

So what is the symbolic order that prevents us from being excited to see one another on the street? Why aren’t we just so ultra-social that we wag our tails at the first sight of people. There are so many people. And our interactions are so often mitigated by the economy. By our exchanges of money. It is really tough. Tough to meet people.

Who knows.

But we are different than dogs. Our interactions are not always curious, new or excited. They are just different. Symbolically constituted different."

Why aren't we more like dogs? Why do we have this disinterest, which I take to be a genuine disinterest.  What is going on? Sometimes I encounter people and they just seem to want to have nothing to do with me. Their life is full enough. They know enough people. Their community is set in this way or that way and they don't want or know how to make the effort to incorporate somebody new. 

I don't want to live that way. I want to be obviously interested in people. I want people to know I'm curious about them. Because I am. I wonder about you. About your past, your emotions, your friends and family. I wonder! 

Don't you wonder about people?

Are you really so comfortable that you don't wonder about people?


This is a disorganized rant. But the point is simple: I wish we were more like dogs. I wish we were unabashedly curious and social with one another. But we aren't. We walk down the street, we don't say anything to each other. We look away. We speak in formulaic ways.

What to do? How to become more like a dog and less like a disinterested person? 

If you are reading this, know that I am in all likelihood curious about you! Don't think I'm not! Because I am! 

Sometimes I just don't have the time or means to pursue my curiosities. 

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