Coming Up for Air

Posted by Mike

I’ve just been with family during the holidays. I never verbalized it to myself at the time, but I think after a while had I been able to sense my feelings and express them to myself I might have said, “Enough, enough. I need to hide. I’d rather be alone!” Saying that here, I wonder how much my experience is mine alone and how much is more universal. I used to think that people were pretty much alike beneath the surface, but I’ve given that up and now see us as maybe looking alike on the outside, but really quite unique and distinct on the inside; and the inside I’m referring to is our feeling experience of whatever it is that is happening. I suspect that we very much want to be like the others. I sense this when watching the crowd at American football games, like the ones that were prominent on television during the past week. There were 70 or 80 thousand people at those games. You see them wearing the same colors and responding to events in the field in unison. It’s impressive – and somehow rather scary at the same time. Those people really seem to want to be like the other – part of the One. The problem with the One – and by that I mean a crowd mentality – is that it can be so wrong some of the time, in ways that really matter. A football game doesn’t really seem to matter very much (although I suspect that if we explore the ramifications of football crowd mentally it would matter very much), but a Senate hyped up by propaganda and voting for war or a crowd following through with a lynching would matter a great deal.

In my defense, I’d like to say that sometimes I like to be with family. But the time on the calendar for family togetherness just might not be the right time for me – or for anyone else, for that matter – and so I guess if one is in such a situation, one just has to fake it. There’s nothing wrong with that, either. I expect that we all do a lot of faking it in our relating to others during our days and weeks. It’s a way of smoothing the rough edges of social intercourse. We are, after all, separate individuals, struggling to maintain ourselves in the morass of living – keeping our own heads above water, if you will. You noted that I said “morass of living.” That’s just my way of writing about it today. What’s the term you might use? In coming up for air we need to be able to see things fresh, just as they really are – at least for us. There’s how things are in the physical world, but our feeling experience is unique to ourselves. It’s allowed – to feel it just as it is for you – the good and the bad, the sad and the joyful. That may be the best part of being human. Sometimes we need to come up for air and see it all fresh and real.

Coming Up for Air is the title of George Orwell’s 1939 novel.

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