(2003 to 2005)

Oblivious to others

Wed Oct 20 22:02:00 UTC+1100 2004


Dilbert the other day was kind of interesting.

I remember when I was in high-school (or through my life generally) that I thought I was pretty friendly to everyone. I tried to be, and thought I was.

A few years ago I realised that I'm not actually. I'm still not really sure how I feel about that. I don't feel anything about it really. It's just true.

The funny thing about being 'oblivious' to others is that, well, you're implicitly also oblivious to the fact that you're oblivious to others! (I.e. you stop being oblivious as soon as you realise that you had been, so in order to still be oblivious you need to have not yet realised that you are..) Like naivety, you can't know that you had it, until you don't have it anymore. Owing to the number of times I've discovered my own oblivion (or naivety) over the course of my life, I can only imagine there are still many places I will discover my ignorance once again. If I'm naive or oblivious now, there is no way that I can know that I am. Knowing what you don't know is important. In knowing of your 'ignorance' you have removed the worst aspect of it. (With all that said, I'm still fucking way smarter than you.. If you think *I'm* naive, take a look at yourself! ;)

I've since realised that there were many people who I just didn't pay any attention to at all. I just felt nothing for them. They were just there. Just a part of the scenery.

Funnily enough, among those people, turns out that some of them picked up on the fact that I was oblivious to them (because they were a subset of those who I was oblivious to that were not oblivious to me) and as a result I had a negative impact on their happiness. That sucks a bit. I didn't mean to be oblivious to them, I just didn't have cause to interact with them. Turns out that trying to be nice to the people you interact with is not all that is required to be 'nice' to everyone. First you have to realise that there are people who exist who you may not be giving the attention they want (having not discussed it).

I've been more and more aware of my 'oblivion' over the years. Often when I'm sitting around by myself, I try to think of a person who I've known, and who I've had very little interaction with, and wonder what they are doing now. Just so that I can absolve myself of my oblivion. It's pretty bad when you realise that it's your little brother, or another relative, or a friend. Often though it's just people from my past, who's names I can barely recall. I look at strangers when I walk down the street, and try to imagine what might be going on in their lives, how they might be feeling right now, where they might be going, what they had for breakfast.. you know, just try to increase my awareness of the fact that other people have lives, and that even when I'm no longer near them, their lives will continue to unfold, and that when I am near them (or have been) then I may be having some effect on their life.

Although I think about this, my behavior doesn't change. My consciousness does, but I'm just as outwardly oblivious of others as I ever have been. More so, in fact.

I've noticed that my behavior tends more and more toward being oblivious of others. One thing that I found was particularly how oblivious I actually was to those who were closest to me. That is, my family and good friends. I don't think anyone is to blame for being trapped in their own consciousness. Each person is the centre of their own universe. Peeking into others' minds is hard, and alien, but a worthwhile exercise. I've tried to augment my behavior to demonstrate to that class of people that I'm not oblivious to them (i.e. my friends and family). The funny thing about going through that mental exercise, is the realisation of how oblivious others are to ME. Being oblivious is not just about 'communication', although that's a large part of the behavioral aspect of it, but also about 'brain space' or 'consideration'. It can turn out that you're oblivious to those you are in regular communication with. From the communication side of things, it's not about 'listening', it's about 'hearing' (something that language, even when it isn't abused through dishonesty or sarcasm, makes very difficult).

I guess owing to time and motion I, like anyone, can only focus my attention on one thing at a time.

So.. Have a nice life, Stranger. I may or may not know you're there. Either way, I'm not talking to you. You're always welcome to come and talk to me if you want. I'll try very hard to hear you, and I'll talk back if I can. If you want me to consider your feelings, tell me what they are.


p.s. The worst thing about being aware of other people's feelings, is that you stop living in a fantasy land where you can pretend that you're 'nice' to everyone. Being cognisant of others' feelings usually means you become aware of how often you hurt them. Hopefully you have good reason for doing so.. you selfish prick.

Copyright © 2003-2005 John Elliot