Outside the Box:
By Paul "Villam" Steed
Anything I say comes from me and represents my personal opinions, views and subtle plans for influencing society. Read, ruminate over and remember at your own risk. If I teach you something and it helps, teach someone else.
hey really are. I just read somewhere (I think at the top of some link I hit from Blue’s) that read something to the effect "It’s amazing to think how much energy some people expend to be ‘normal’."
That is such an understatement. But it only hints slightly at the complexity of people. People are these amazingly complex organic machines that are self-sufficient (well…most are), and self-motivating. People own the rest of the planet and could easily decimate themselves and the other organisms with the dual turn of a key and a couple presses of a button. Luckily the intelligence that makes people rulers of their existence also helps them to NOT turn those keys and press those buttons. However, I’ve come to believe that people for the most part are very self-limiting without even knowing it. Hence the realization that most people are a trip. Lemme ‘splain…
For example, take the aforementioned struggle for normalcy. Being in an industry where almost everyone around me suffers from some degree of social dysfunction (including myself of course), I see that struggle every day. But even in every day life outside us computer geeks, people at large are just fascinating creatures. I had to endure over two and a half hours the other day at the Dallas courthouse while waiting to take care of some speeding tickets (can you say ‘deferred adjudication’ sir?). Normally this would perturb the hell out of me but I was happy as a clam as I just sat and watched people. I observed this good old boy lawyer deftly rebuked by the somewhat attractive court clerk. I observed the tired old bailiff as he endured yet another day in what has to be a pretty shit job. I observed contrition edged with fear and respect and I observed sarcastic contrition that comes with plenty of ‘been-there-done-that’ bravado. Yet everyone around me seemed to struggle to keep normal. They were breaking up their routine (or living it) and they were working hard at dealing with the adversity of it. The only two people I encountered that morning who seemed genuinely at ease with their perception of reality and their surroundings were the judge who gave me my ‘sentence’ and the cashier who took my money for the privilege of being on deferred probation for six months.
I suspect this was because of all the people I encountered that morning, they weren’t afraid to look me or anyone else in the eye (I’m big on eye contact). Mostly, though I think it was because they were ‘there’ ‘then’. See what I mean? They gave me their undivided attention and allowed me to occupy their sensory input channel. I was real to them. I saw it in their eyes.
Have you heard the Zen expression, "Be Here Now." Sure you have. The weight of those three words is very, very dense (pun intended). How many of us truly listen to the people around us? For that matter how many of us actually listen to our own body? Are you really hungry for that Fiddle Faddle or is it just habit that has you hand groping in that red and gold box as you watch the latest episode of Seinfeld? How many times do you half listen to someone speaking to you since you know them well enough to realize what the conversation is about or heading to?
How about this. You see a co-worker coming down the hall.
"Hey, CW. Howze it going?"
"Not much," they respond.
Huh? It’s because they really heard ‘wassup’ instead of ‘howze it going’ because that’s how you normally greet people. They expected a certain kind of salutation and like some defensive lineman anticipating the snap count they queue up a response before you even put it out there. Uh-oh. Here comes that Steed-guy. He always asks me ‘Wassup’ so I’ll respond and be on my way: "Not, much." I am so out of here…
Once committed to a course of action or response, it’s hard to back out of it. I continually amaze myself and chastise myself for not paying attention while driving this particularly rural alternate way to work. I completely zone out. Lulled by the serene surroundings, auto-pilot takes over and I think about work or whatever. It’s like all of a sudden I check my speed since I know I’ll be cruising past the little rural police station soon (I like to count and see if all three cop cars are still in their places dictating whether or not I go 60 or 90) and I dumbly realize that I already passed it a mile back. Astounding and scary.
What I’m getting at here is that people are rarely ‘here now’. They’re constantly letting themselves be distracted. They’re thinking about lunch or their girlfriends or their boyfriends, etc. Inversely through a lack of being there now people tend to anticipate responses and reactions. For example you do something that you just know will piss your parents or significant other off and you’ve already assumed a defensive posture. I once was pissed at my brother and said to him, "Boy that was a dumbass thing to say…" Well he swore up and down I called him a dumbass. I was thinking maybe he was a dumbass but I didn’t verbalize it (much to his protestations to the contrary). He heard, "Boy, you sure are a dumbass."
Listen to someone when they talk to you. Don’t just take a break from hearing the sound of your own voice. I mean really listen. What are they saying? Why are they saying it. Think about what your response would be and then go with the second thing that comes to mind. Why the second? Trust me. If the situation has any erg of potential antagonism, number two is the safe bet. Read a book and pay attention to the words in front of you. Don’t think about who or what you’re having for lunch as the pages flip by. Focus, Grasshopper. Focus.
So pursuant to the desire to be normal (or maybe the opposite) people are a trip because they don’t really observe and pay attention to the events that take place around them on a second by second basis. They react by anticipation so they can get the hell away from there and make believe they’re observing the correct socially dictated behavior pattern.
Another reason why people are a trip is because of motivation. What motivates us? Why do we aspire to anything? Money? Power? Sex? More sex? What? People do some very strange things through the power of motivation. Of course what motivates me is myself. I even married myself recently and wasn’t even invited to the wedding! The nerve… Seriously, though. I am motivated by fairness and pride. I feel I treat everyone fairly and I want the same fair treatment in return. I have a lot of pride because I’m a type-A personality who feels he’s right most of the time. The older I get the more easier it is to temper pride with my fairness rule. Sometimes, though…
Motivation is such a powerful tool and behavior modifier. Are your motivations to stay late at work or work weekends because you need to get the job done or are you strategically trying to impress your superiors. Staying in a bad or marginal relationship is more often than not a case of proper motivation not love (then again love is a pretty powerful and fickle motivator itself).
So as we take a peek outside the box this week, try a little experiment for a few days or a few hours and audit your attention span and motivators in your life. At the very least it’ll prove entertaining.
- Paul Steed is an incredibly opinionated 3D artist at id Software.
Credits: Thinking Outside the Box logo illustrated and is © 1998 Dan Zalkus. Thinking Outside the Box is © 1998 Paul Steed. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't even try it. We've got really big guns, and we're ripped, baby.