I've spent a great deal of my life in the last 10 years trying to understand crowds, trends, patterns - things on a broad scale over broader periods of time.
I've been mildly successful at it. Observe a pattern here, define a trend there. It's all been quite fun and fascinating.
What I've fallen behind on, however, is understanding individuals. Understanding details.
In one on one interactions from the professional to the romantic there is a clear gap in my understanding that I've started, in the last 6 months, to try to rectify.
Some people I've encountered have suggested it's a game. Some of those are referring to an implicit thing that all people play with each other - most without even noticing. Some are actually talking about a real, concrete game that they study and learn.
I've struggled with this. While I am perfectly happy to play a game with a crowd, observe trends and try to shape or leverage them, I find myself vacillating between exhaustion and guilt at even the prospect of playing individual people like a game.
I feel exhaustion at the realization that I'm just no good at this, and I have a long way to go to learn and become natural at it. Somewhere along the line I seem to have miss-learned some signals and the prospect of unlearning and re-learning new things is daunting for me right now. It's clear though that, from the reactions I sometimes get, and the suggestions I'm afforded, there's something I'm actively doing wrong.
I also feel exhausted because it seems like much of these games, explicit or otherwise, involve a whole host of preamble and pretense that adds such complexity and conscious effort to a conversation.
I feel guilt because I like to think of myself as honest and genuine. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. Or at least that's what I intend to strive for. Often the advice I get feels at best petty or at most manipulative.
I'm probably wrong about all of this though. Maybe the real answer is that people just need simple things from each other. They need a framework for discussion. They need to feel wanted. They need to feel acknowledged and accepted. They are also attracted to those who are interesting and exciting and communicating that (through words and actions) is usually done in a very particular way. A way that is either instinctual (for most) or learned (for people like me).
I'm not sure yet exactly how microcosms fit into this, but I think they do. I believe a great deal in the truth of microcosms. For me they suggest that the way you behave in the smallest incident reveals how you think and behave in all incidents - large or small.
Do you let people out of a car park before you drive by them? Then you will always let people in front of you in lines, in conversation, in thoughts and feelings.
Do you have a clean house but a messy basement? Then you are probably more interested in your outward appearance than your internal mental health.
These are observations that might be useful and prove predictive, I think, but I don't make them in day-to-day interactions. Once again I am oblivious.
So for now, I continue to listen and learn and take from these lessons the parts that I can map to my own personality without corrupting my core.
Right now I feel like I am failing at these life lessons - I have so long to go. I'm not even clear on the path right now. But as usual, writing a blog post about it makes me feel better and helps to parse out some of my thoughts.
How do you feel about 'the game'? Is it a natural talent or a learned skill? Is it ordinary human behavior - are we all playing games or is it manipulative and deceitful? Is it both? Perhaps it's advantageous to abandon the game and find others like you who have abandoned it too? Is abandonment giving up on the path of least resistance or is standing up for some moral standard? Is the perception that it's immoral itself a misconception?
As you can see - too many questions yet to answer...