Thursday, August 22, 2013

In a fantasy novel

I was going to write about all the people who come to my library, but I got all philosophical and elegiac, but now that that post is all taken care of (here) I can get to the rather more rough hewn response I started with.

It started when an approximately 25 to 60 year old woman asked me to help her print something from her computer. As we took the long walk over to the computers I couldn't help but notice that this woman:

1. Was closer to four feet tall than she was to five feet tall.
2. Had bulging eyes and the wildly rounded facial features of a frog.
3. Was peculiarly fair, with blonde/white hair and great paleness all about her.
4. Had a body shape distinct from what I tend to think of as human; rounded, elongated, legless,
and yet
5. She was enormously high revving, spoke faster than normal, and was tremendously nimble.

And suddenly it dawned on me: I have never seen a person like this in my whole life, and yet, concurrently, I so regularly see people every bit as distinct as this lady that I barely note them. These distinctive and far from common people I see at the library regularly fit into my daily life, indeed are a deep part of it, but are constantly unrepresented in any real way in any of the media I consume, in any conceptions of the world floating around me, and, oddly, even in my own general conception of what the world of people is made of.

I did have a thought though. Two thoughts. The first is that everyone is like this. We are curiously strange and individual and bizarre, but we constantly generalize and categorize things, people, everything we see in an attempt to understand or feel comfortable or be able to cope and find a common referential ground. The second thought was that fantasy novels and some science fiction and lots of cross genre actually does the best job at beginning to describe actual people on the ground. They do this by describing them as not human! Once I started thinking of people as elves, gnomes, pixies, wizards, hobbits, Vorgons, trolls, Orcs, Dwarves, Witches and so on I found it much easier to get a grip on just how different everyone I see is. From there I could proceed to an important next step. I had to go further and invent an entire race for each individual. From here I could finally see all the humanity as it really was. I did this for five full minutes until, overwhelmed, I had to go hide in the bathroom for a bit.

I avoided the mirror.

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