When people are suffering because they think they’re responsible for their behavior, it’s unpleasant for me to be around them. It’s one thing to be passing them on the street, but another to be confined with them in close quarters for 10 days, especially when I know that their lives haven’t prepared them to address the issue.
I’m not particularly distressed by their suffering—there’s no point in my suffering over something that isn’t likely to change. Most people in the world suffer from the illusion of responsibility, and I’ve long since made peace with that.
The problem for me is that, in interacting with them, I have to take them seriously. They take themselves very seriously, and are deeply concerned about being taken seriously by others. They are sensitive to the slightest disregard, and react with varying degrees of anger, fear, and discomfort.
I have to pretend to take them seriously in order to keep the social machinery operating smoothly, and at the same time, I have to pretend to take myself seriously. If I were to start laughing at myself the way I do when I’m alone, they would want to know what’s funny, especially if we’re in a hospital room where someone may be dying. (More about laughter: “Who Is Laughing at Whom?”)
So there’s a lot of pretending going on, which takes a lot of energy, but more than that, I miss my own amusement. I feel like a kid who’s been told he can’t laugh and play in church—it’s no fun being serious like all the grownups.
If I’m given the opportunity to repeat the experience, my current intention is to decline. How will I explain my refusal? Send them a copy of this post? We’ll see…
Does this post have any connection to reality, or am I just concocting an elaborate rationalization to flatter myself for not enjoying the experience? The actual processing that went on in my brain during the whole affair is beyond conscious scrutiny. All I really have access to are the feelings of unpleasantness, and my verbalizations are just attempts to make sense of the emotions. Naturally, my “interpreter” is going to come up with something that makes me look good within my personal frame of reference. It sounds good to me: I’m cool, right?
(From an earlier post: “I would like to keep the level of my ignorance clearly in mind. I would like to remember that I’m floating along in a sea of neural processes that are beyond my comprehension, just guessing at where I am and how I got here.”)
If I were to take it all seriously, I’d be giving my conscious self more credit than it deserves. Wouldn’t that be funny?