Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Who Is He Really? Part 2

     Yes, I’m back to this theme. Why? Because of the passing parade, the human tragicomedy, and the living detritus it scatters across the face of reality. Also, because I’m utterly weary of political commentary, of speaking in categories and imperatives (and categorical imperatives). This allows me a break from the routine. Anyway, the other Esteemed Co-Conspirators of Liberty’s Torch will surely fill the sociopolitical gap...if a gap there be.

     NOTE: The rules as stated in Part 1 still apply.

     This person seems to “live at the office.” You could easily get the impression that he’d spend his entire life there, if it were made possible. For him, home is mostly a place to store his clothes.

     Or maybe not. Maybe he spends all his time on a pastime. It could be a sport, a craft, video games, coin collecting, the Internet...it really doesn’t matter. It absorbs him too completely for any other sort of involvement, possibly including gainful employment.

     Or maybe not that either. Maybe his life is consumed by his bank balance. Or by a search for sexual conquests. Or by fanatic devotion to some sports figure, or franchise, or musical icon. Or by the adoration of some political figure, or Cause, or popular guru. Whatever it is, it leaves no space in his day, week, month, or year for any competing interest.

     In these United States of America, in this year of Our Lord 2017, it’s very likely that you know such a person.

     Let’s call him the Monochromist.

     We have it on pretty good authority that the immense variety and richness of life, especially contemporary American life, should make us happy as kings. Some of us are. Maybe even most of us. But appearances to the contrary, that’s unlikely to include the Monochromist.

     Obsession isn’t good for anyone. Moreover, it’s odds-on that the Monochromist knows that. Nevertheless, he prefers it to broader engagement with the people and the world around him.

     To marry oneself to a single interest, forsaking all others, is seldom due to the decision that that interest is all that matters. Far more often it’s a reaction born of pain: a withdrawal into a “safe space,” stemming from emotional damage sustained during a flirtation with the possibilities of the wider world.

     The Monochromist is frequently found in works of fiction. He’s almost always a pitiable figure. He’s employed to illustrate the emotional seductiveness of closure around a single, all-consuming pursuit.

     Considering how many Monochromists inhabit the real world, it’s fairly easy to “create” one for use in a story. But he and his fellows are also a warning to the rest of us.

     A world “so full of a number of things” will occasionally inflict pain, disappointment, or failure on each of us. It’s inherent in our wanting natures. The more we see, the more we want: things, people, skills, achievements, stature, novelty, diversion, what-have-you. It’s inherent in the nature of reality that some of those wants will not be fulfilled, or that pursuing them will exact a price we’d prefer not to pay, whether or not we get what we’ve sought.

     He who is unable to endure pain, disappointment, and failure is ill-prepared for life. It’s not that life is inherently and unremittingly painful, but rather that we are limited creatures with limited powers and limited resources. If our wants could be limited in like fashion, life could be free of all sorrow...but apparently that’s not possible to the overwhelming majority of us. We call the exceptions saints. Some of them deserve it.

     The Monochromist has created a refuge for himself, in which he hopes to escape further sorrow. In fact what he’s done is to wall himself up with his sorrows, such that they’re always hovering around him at the slightest of removes. His fanatic concentration on his single interest is the sole barrier that keeps those sorrows at bay.

     “A slave cannot be freed, save he do it himself.” – Robert A. Heinlein

     What’s true of the slave is also true of the Monochromist. The walls around him are of his own design and construction. Only he can tear them down. Nevertheless, a huge number of persons of a “helping” disposition will attempt it. Their efforts are seldom rewarded with anything but frustration and bruises.

     Motivation, as Robert C. Townsend has noted, is a door locked from within. It’s pointless to try to force new motives onto someone, especially a Monochromist. He’s far more likely to reinforce his barriers than to lower them at your suggestion.

     Many are the parents whose adolescent children have wound themselves around some obsession. The condition is becoming ever more commonplace in our time. However, relief usually comes as they mature. He who elects to care about an adult Monochromist has a tougher row to hoe.

     Do you know any such, Gentle Reader? I’d lay odds on it. What responses have they inspired in you?

1 comment:

Scott said...

I like these posts...and as one of my co-workers might say, I (may) resemble those remarks.

But in some ways, I kind of think the simpler breakdown is extrovert vs introvert. Granted I wasn't there to hear it, but that woman you described yesterday sounded more like a simple raging extrovert -- who simply cannot imagine how someone might live his life without defining himself by what groups he belongs to (or what corporate logos he plasters himself with for everybody to see, what symbols he tatoos himself with, what he ate for dinner and posted to Facebook, etc.) To her you 'have no identity,' because her identity is defined purely socially (well, at least to her).

Likewise this guy probably defines himself more by his interest(s) and what he has accomplished, and probably wouldn't have much patience for the woman from yesterday. Or care what she thought of him. But his work give him meaning.

Mostly people seem to be falling into extremes of the two. OK, probably kind of unhealthy.... but increasingly, it is harder and harder to even get up to dealing with 'the other side.' In some cases, maybe unhealthy to even try...