Sunday, July 16, 2017

On the species

Charles Schulz, or maybe more properly Linus Van Pelt, once said "I love mankind... It's people I can't stand." It's cleverness impressed me deeply as an eight year old and I've always loved to muse on it, like it was a puzzle. Like I'd have to work it all out to get it straight in my head. I love mankind... It's people I can't stand. But every time I try and work it out in my life it somehow comes out opposite.

When I walk through the upper floor of my library, after shelving a cart of non fiction, I see all the lost souls out on our great banks of computers up there. It often gives me this strange, hollow, sad feeling. It looks like something out of a dystopian future from the eighties. Alone, killing time, feeding into isolated machines, sitting one next to the other but entirely disconnected from one another and everything around them, there they are; humanity. Mankind. Staring into screens full of pre packaged information, slickly produced video, pouring over strange forms to fill out, meaningless plastic things to buy, and the desultory comments of people just like them with just enough energy to type into their own computers. Nothing out in this sea can attract my eye. They are featureless, uninspired, beaten down, yet pulled on in some collective march to disaster and dissonance. They look like they're all doing some kind of extremely undemanding factory work on some assembly line designed by evil robots.

But then I invariably look at just one of them. I don't know why. Maybe I recognize someone, or someone asks me a question, but it breaks the spell. Now they come alive. Here's the homeless kid, smelly in his unwashed clothes, watching bad anime. He laughs. I hear he's trying to work things out with a community resource advocate. There's the daffy guy who writes books that are huge, unhinged, and unreadable. He talked the library into buying one or two of them for our collection through his sheer genial energy, nervousness, and persistence. I can tell you that he loves stamps. And there is that lady who is always, always there, playing that pointless game where you shoot colored balls at a ceiling of colored balls. But my god she's getting good at it!

And so it is: I love people... It's mankind I can't stand.

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