Have you ever felt like you’re so in the moment that it’s like an out of body experience? A feeling of being so absorbed into your surroundings that, in a surreal way, it’s like you’re in a different dimension?
With or without substances, nobody’s on trial here.
Being lost in the crowd with my new acquaintance became a situation I wasn’t prepared for. The absurdity of the situation melted into the oddest level of clarity, and with the lips of a woman whose name I didn’t know on my collarbone, I felt like I’d been there before.
Here’s the funny thing about déjà vu; it’s actually a brain spasm.
The neurons in your brain short-circuit out for a second, like a computer glitch, and your perception of the present moment gets rattled like a marble in a fish bowl. You’re still spatially aware of your surroundings, but your mind’s gone for a jog around the block; as it comes ‘round the corner, it remembers that it left your body behind, and it sees you in the present moment with an odd sense of familiarity.
I knew absolutely no one in my peripheral vision, but that realization brought forth an understanding that no one knows everybody. Every single one of us, model citizens and degenerates, were unified by the commonality of being surrounded by strangers. From the tight-knit groups to the belligerent punch-drunk fighters, we were all agents of the chaos of the night.
Ultimately, this ain’t so remarkable.
It’s like your GPS finally establishing an internet connection and giving you accurate coordinates for your position. Your brain can travel everywhere from Malibu to Afghanistan over the course of the day because of what you read on your smartphone or see in the news, but when it finally comes home to your head, you get star-struck.
I think the reason this happens is because, most of the time, we go places without actually being there. We walk out while plugged in, hearing sounds and seeing sights without actually understanding what everything around us really implies.
When our little mental microcosms get rolled out into the sunlight, though, we’re really awake for the first time. When we’re in the present moment, we’re taking a little vacation from the day-to-day illusion of our own sense of being. We stop being ourselves and start being apart of all that us, which is nothing more than what is: We become elements of the planet itself instead of our safety zones as individuals.
I’m not saying anything groundbreaking here. There’s been more wisdom found at the bottom of a cup of cactus juice pertaining to this topic than I can type right now. Call it insight, call it common sense, call it a mystical experience; it all amounts to a discovery that, in truth, is something you’ve known all along.
A few gin and tonics in the tank were satisfactory fuel for an engine of sensory overload; for some reason, free drinks just seem to hit harder. There’s no stake to them, no sacrifice, so you hesitate less to let contents escape into your blood.
I didn’t know if my generous drink-provider-slash-dance-partner was feeling anything similar, but she was feeling comfortable enough to speak into my ear rather than to my face. When words get spoken close enough to your skin, the connotations are palpable.
You can almost feel intentions carried in the air that drove the words from the speaker’s throat; it was a warm caress with a pinch of ice, like a serpent made of sweet incense smoke, razor blades wrapped in silk.
“I like you.”
The feeling was mutual.
There’s a certain point in the night at which time becomes something like maple syrup that’s caught midway between the base of the bottle and the lip of the dispenser; no ability to discern exactly how long its been moving along so far, just a sweet mixture of timeless lackadaisical indulgence and a buzzing anxiety for some kind of imminent gratification.
And if you’re not careful in how you handle this decadent moment caught in time, you just might wind up needing to wash your hands.
I don’t remember exactly where on the dance floor I met her, but that may be attributed to the fact that meeting her never registered as a real mental directive in the very first place.
Sometimes you go into a situation with no expectations and still wind up with the fruits of something planted by a person with all the intentions in the world; in this scenario, we are the ill-deserved dinner guests of Queen Fate tasked with making a good impression while still in her fleeting good graces.
Judging by the unrelenting pressure of immaculately preened nails on my waistline, I’d have to assume that so far I must have been doing something right.
We had come as a group, and now many groups from all stretches of the metropolitan jungle had become one amorphous dance in this neon cave of $13 Long Island Iced Teas.
I did wonder how my walk-in mates were faring, but my stranger in company was determined to promote herself to ‘acquaintance’ at an alarming rate, so I let the music substitute my stream of consciousness a bit longer.
The high notes of muffled Hindi music did cartwheels out into the urban ether as a half-hearted cadence for shambling, heavily intoxicated undead.
My eyes surveyed a 5’5” cavalcade of spousal frustration beckoning me “come” from the leather-seated void, my back saluted a tribe of mirthful bouncers blessing me “go”, and my sides were flanked by four sisters doing everything in their power to prevent their fifth from completing her metamorphosis into a “stealthily polygamous” werecougar by the light of the full moon.
I’d known them all for 90 minutes at best, and the driver was getting pissed.
So like most nightlife expeditions, this was an exercise in education, with no other teacher than fate; the teachers’ aides just happened to be various degrees of hard alcohol.
A wholesome, all-inclusive crash course for the world’s most proactive, courageous, best-dressed and consistently forgetful students. From the way things where shaping up to be, I was either about to receive massive extra credit points, or an unforgiving, potentially bullet-heavy expulsion. It was the bloodshot, unblinking eye in a perfect storm of less-than-reputable decisions made throughout the night.
(Statistics pulled from Leadbuster: The Ultimate Affiliate Marketing Strategy Guide. )
- 81% of all people report using the Internet every week
- 77% of all people using the Internet will use a search engine
- 63% of all people using the Internet will use some form of social media
- From 2003 to 2011, the amount of people who have reported using a computer for leisure time (excluding email and work-related matters) nearly doubled. (From 8% to 14%)
- From 2003 to 2011, the amount of time that people have reported to spend socializing offline has fallen from an average of 41 minutes to 37 minutes
- Over 75% of people report making purchases based on research conducted with their smartphones
Undeniably, every single one of you reading this at one point likely falls into one of two camps: either you’re familiar with the Internet, or you’re a hyper-intelligent golden retriever that’s learned how to power on the computer and open up an Internet browser.
I know you got into the garbage today. Shame on you.
If you fall into the first camp, though, I don’t have to give you any kind of dissertation on how big the internet is right now. Matter of fact, if by the end of this post you can give me a fact that blows my mind about how big the internet is, I’ll send you penny through Paypal. Swear on my sunglasses.
I can’t say that I was ever skeptical, but I certainly learned to believe in a dimension separate from our own; one that’s entirely flesh and thread and plastic and burger wrappers, and the other that has all of that, plus the infinity of shared human consciousness.
Neither one of those is the Internet, by the way. I’m a Buddhist. We’re all about that weird version of the world that’s not only physical. Don’t get me wrong, physical stuff’s pretty dang legit, but so is other stuff; like, for instance, the equalizer of the human experience and emancipation from despair through doing nice stuff.
You know, if you’re into that kinda thing.
The Internet is no replacement for this big ol’ pretty ball of dirt and lightning and FM radio we call ‘Earth, but it’s become one hell of a representation. If you had told me four years ago, when I was homeless in Long Island and pinching my nickels to ration out vending machine grocery trips, that one day I’d be eating lobster tempura sushi just for using the computer, I’d probably think you were just a hallucination from hunger.
Well you’re no a hallucination; at least, I don’t think. I have no way of knowing, and I’m not prejudiced against hallucinations. Left-hand shakers, sure, but not hallucinations.
Going from haggle-for-a-bus-ride broke to paying for my first semester of college out of pocket, for one of those mystical internet jobs, still seems kinda fishy even though I’ve become living proof of it. That’s just how surreal it is. I was one of those overthinking, slightly-underachieving but still good-GPA-earning kids with a penchant for doing homework; my path in life was kinda copy and paste “set” for all intents and purposes, at least until graduate school.
I don’t spend my days walking up and down the street wearing nothing but LCD monitors over my shame and preaching about the end of the world as we know it. (fyi)
I don’t because it already happened. The job market, as most people know it, not only will never be the same, but it HASN’T been the same for the last ten years or so. It’s different because it’s just not as important anymore.
Necessary? For some, hell yes. The only option? Hell no. These buzz words like resume, application, interview and “fired” skip through the air like belligerently drunk pixies in an abandoned winery.
You get nipped and pimp-slapped by them forever, until you choose to stop believing in them.
Then you get the hell out of that winery and walk yourself to a proper establishment of your choice.
But hey, I’m not here to make you use your imagination. That’s illegal. Just remember that no matter where you are, the net is under your feet and above your head. You can either perceive this as being trapped by it, or you can draw on it as a source of infinite, unprecedented power.
Even if you’re just a hyper-intelligent golden retriever who can’t really read this but knows how to turn on the computer and open an internet browser.
From 2003 to 2011, the amount of time that people have reported to spend socializing offline has fallen from an average of 41minutes to 37 minutes.
So that internet thing, right?
Apparently a lot of people use it, but how many of us have actually seen it?
How do we even know it even exisufobeovubvnfv-
Sorry about that. Keyboard got hijacked by the schizophrenic hobgoblin squatting in my attic. Bastards have magic that can bypass computer security. You pour some water on them and they disintegrate for about 40 minutes, but anything they type stays there for good.
Hobby had a point though.
We see things on the internet, and with the horrible miracle of smartphones, you can even put it in your pocket.
But to the dismay of every disgruntled old Texan man that’s ever made a vow to do so, you cannot just walk out and unplug or break the internet. You put a 9 iron through your monitor because it freezes on a refrigerator ad, you’re just gonna succeed in hurting your bank account and raising your blood pressure.
I’ve seen it. It’s funny.
We have to take a sober eye towards some really, for real stuff though; the online job market as transmogrified into something both ephemeral and completely physical. 80% of all millionaires living in America right now are first-generation rich, and the ability to post an advertisement on free for Facebook has probably had a hand in that.
By probably, I mean definitely.
In the past, we were afraid of machines taking away jobs from people. With the emergence of the tertiary job market, humankind was able to make a ‘comeback’ by making money through stuff that isn’t really tangible stuff. (Psychological therapy, real estate, psychological therapy for realtors who realize they practice real estate)
Through human to human service, people can do things that machines can’t, for better pay.
That’s pretty damn sweet. Except when it isn’t.
We have an educational system that pushes out man-kids and woman-kids to fall into the service job niche cleanly, like a conveyor belt twisting the cap on bologna cans.
It works for some, it doesn’t work for others, but for many people, it’s just the way that it works.
Or at least, the way it should work.
People are always looking for answers to ways that they can break the mold in their careers without actually breaking off from their careers, and truth is, they don’t have to. No one actually has to.
The idea of jobs being done by machines was as threatening as it was intriguing. Some people found it frightening that an inanimate system could devalue their physical effort as a worker, the thing that made them secure in their place in society.
Stephen Hawking himself expressed fear at the notion of complete artificial intelligence; something so brilliant, self-sustaining and flexible that it may be completely out of our control by the time its fully realized.
Whether or not you believe in the notion of artificial intelligence, a beast has nonetheless been created. The beast we’ve created exists on the digital plane, and though it can’t be touched, observed, heard or smelled, it’s powerful far beyond even the wildest beasts of our imaginations.
We can’t observe it directly, but we can see the result of its impact. The concept of upward mobility has been thrown completely on its head, and now, every single member of society with access to a computer wields firepower formerly only allowed to million dollar corporations with fortunes to spend on advertising.
The speed at which we can exchange ideas, have our ideas funded and reach out to the masses is so phenomenal that it seems dreamlike.
It’s no surprise that so many are so skeptical, despite the ever-growing mountain of evidence that self-employment online is more than just a nice idea; it’s a reality!
It’s me! How are things? Hope this year treats you well! I mean wow, you’re a real jackwagon. Just the absolute worst. You know how there’s a difference between ‘cold’ and ‘absolute zero’? You know, absolute zero, the state at which it isn’t thermodynamically possible for gas to become even a single decimal digit colder? Replace cold with ‘lame’ and ‘absolute zero’ with you.
You are, like, if the concept of stubbing your big toe and the concept of hitting your funny bone had a baby together, and Michael Bay worked with M. Night Shyamalan to make a movie about that baby.
You are like a lemonade stand selling abandonment issues for exact change, and the price ends with an odd number. You are like a personified, unskippable Youtube advertisement wearing white skinny jeans after labor day while walking on the grass.
And then you step right on into someone’s house with those grassy shoes, and you insult their drapes, and you didn’t even bring any drinks. You drink everyone else’s drinks instead, get drunk, put all the bottles on an individual finger and clack them together while talking about politics.
No one likes a political rant. Not even the person making a political rant likes the political rant. No one likes a drunk jackass within five feet. Not even the drunk jackass themselves likes a drunk jackass. Why do you think drunk jackasses fight each other so much?
Well you’re kinda all of them. All of them in one. Like a Gordita Crunch from Taco Bell a taxi cab driver picks up with a woman in labor in his back seat, and the meter is still running and he doesn’t even accept credit cards as fare. That baby is gonna be born into a large, spinning world that smells of processed cheese, petroleum fuel and cheapness, and probably grow up to produce a Shaq Fu reboot, with Dennis Rodman instead of Shaq.
That’s your legacy. That’s what you contribute.
And I respect the hell out of you.
Because even though you unequivocally and mercilessly suck, you’ve got potential to be the best.
The best at what?
The best at everything.
Your shameless mediocrity as a person belies a selfless, ascetic soul that will lay their ribs out across a river for people to run across and escape from danger.
Your inability to take initiative is the calm before the perfect storm of human effort, diligence, and victory; except when it isn’t. When it is, though, it’s pretty damn awesome.
Your indifference is the shadow of compassion, your laziness is the after-image of superhuman speed and vigor. You are the null hypothesis to everything good and awesome, and due to that, you ARE everything good and awesome. You really, really suck, and that’s what makes you worth believing in.
I’m rooting for you, you glorious, beautiful, indomitable, shimmering, elegant, radiant piece of crap.
Fun Fact: ‘Yahoo’ is actually an acronym that means “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.”
So, here’s a disclaimer:
I’m guilty of being every guy.
You know, every guy that acts enlightened when they start toying with the idea of how to make money online. All these buzzwords like ‘independent business owner’ and ‘mlm’ and ‘entrepreneur’, they’re so intoxicating that they may as well be fireball shots.
And let’s not pretend that we all haven’t been every guy, at least once, even if you’re a girl. (Yes you, Sarah.)
Every guy thinks they’ve got a fantastic, one-of-a-kind idea. Every guy, at some point, thinks they’re all that and a bag of potato chips. Every guy, for all intents in purposes, has it all figured out.
And then every guy sees that their one-of-a-kind idea is really one of a kind of thing that’s actually numbering in the billions. Every guy sees that they ARE all that and a bag of potato chips, but unfortunately, the bag turns out to have a whole bunch of hot air up at the top.
Every guy has it all figured out, you know, until they don’t.
So what does every guy do after that?
Blame something, get frustrated at something, light something up, do something else, try to be somebody else; and not necessarily always in that order either.
In the worse case scenario, they might become THAT guy.
Once upon a junior college night, a seven foot tall, morbidly obese man drunkenly sleepwalked into my dorm room when we left the door open by the latch. He mistook my roommate’s closet for a toilet stall, and I heard my roommate yell in the most alarmed Dutch accent I’ve ever heard in my life.
On the one hand, that was horrifying. On the other hand, it was pretty damn hilarious.
Was the large, drunken, 2% conscious Sasquatch of a man recoiling from the realization of being every guy?
To this date, I’m not really sure.
So what happens when we aren’t every guy, though?
What happens to those who stop being every guy, transcend being THAT guy, and become THE guy?
I wish I could tell you that, really, because every day I learn something new telling me that I’ve got a little bit longer to go until I find out.
Here’s what I have found out, though.
Making your own way is pretty damn cool. The job market is only dead to those who still believe in its archaic, but still very relevant, definition. Independent marketing is the future, and every guy thinks that the title ‘entrepreneur’ denotes a license to the future.
The real question, then, when do we stop being every guy, who thinks they own the future, and become THE guy that does?
For me? Probably when I’m done listening to this.
A word that threatens to achieve the same generationally defining gravity as Hakuna Matata. A good thing? Depends on how sober you are. Enlightening? More than anyone believed.
There are scales to determining exactly what qualifies something as being kinda, really, considerably, or unequivocally ratchet. You probably already thought of a couple examples yourself.
In my time working security for parties aimed at twenty-something year olds, decadent quagmires of youthful hysteria and belligerent tom fuckery, I’d gotten pretty solid samples from all across the spectrum of ratchet.
I’d seen a gentleman sprint across the dance floor faster than a Kenyan on angel dust just to Superman tackle a woman dancing a precious few meters out of her protective chick circle. The impact was critical enough to make the back of her bra explode like an illegal South American firecracker, bare tits violently erupting from her top like Mitsubishi airbags.
And she kept right on dancing with the dude on the ground.
You’d think seeing these kinds things would make you hard to impress.
I thought so. And I was wrong.
After a party clears out, it was always protocol to move over to the nearby campus convenience store to provide support for the cashiers there. Some would think that once a party ends the trouble is over, but it’s the opposite; shit always hits the fan in the places with food, after 1am, when the actual events are over.
You’re in a place where a bunch of over-stimulated, impatient, horny and belligerent twenty-something year olds are coming to gather in place where the music is gone and all that’s left is their unchecked aggression and a too-tight space. This is the time of night where all of the drama from beforehand is likely at a boiling point. Everyone who isn’t getting laid knows it by now and is pissed off. Poorly-judged and incomprehensible phone calls to exes are getting made left and right. Scores that weren’t settled inside are finally reaching a climax.
Anyone who isn’t passed out or in bed by now is likely as drunk or high as they’re going to be all night, or experiencing the first stages of their comedown. They’ve got the right combination of residual adrenaline, bitterness, sexual frustration and youthful apathy to burn down a city.
And they’ve got the munchies.
I once saw a young man hoist an entire cash register off of the counter and hurl it into the Pringles rack as if it were made of Styrofoam. To this day I do not know what the source of his vexation was, but I’m willing to bet he didn’t get exact change.
Thankfully, these extreme incidents do not happen every single night, but they’re prominent enough to keep an eye out.
At the very least, people were going to just try stealing something. We were used to that, and it was manageable. For some reason, all it takes is mildly dimmed lights and a thick-ish crowd to make every regular drunk jackwagon think they’re slick as James Bond in an invisibility cloak. Usually, all it would take was a quick visual acknowledgement of what they were doing to make them instantly recognize their folly and put the Doritos back to keep from looking more stupid.
We weren’t prepared for her.
She was different from the rest. She was an agent on a mission issued from a higher order, and she had no capacity for shame. She was that rare and fatal flavor of drunk which leaves a person mentally lucid enough to plan something, physically coordinated enough to fully act it out, and belligerent enough to not give a damn about the consequences or stigma at any stage of the process.
And she casually walked out of the establishment in her heels with a twelve inch submarine sandwich jammed in the back of her yoga pants.
There was sauce on the sandwich. There was buffalo sauce on the sandwich. There was buffalo sauce on the goddamn sandwich and it was and likely running down the crack of her ass and she was just walking with it, triumphantly, wrapper and all. The sandwich just indifferently poked out of the back of her waistband, fully saluting the air like the tail of a happy cat with a bird in its mouth.
It was like the birth of a new folk saying before our very eyes: “Some people wear their hearts on their sleeves, some keep skeletons in their closets, and some people publicly cram sandwiches in their asses and try to leave without paying.”
Never before had I so clearly understood the power of ‘hiding in plain sight’. Something so improbable, so outrageous, so overtly inconceivable that you immediately write it off as a trick of the mind. As jaded as we are sometimes about the goodness of the human race, we still somehow always have enough faith to believe there’s a ceiling on stupid.
I’m still not sure if the people who periodically break that ceiling truly are that mentally bankrupt, or simply bold enough to attempt taking advantage of our unwillingness to believe that it’s possible. They’ll be so committed to what they’ve done that they’ll almost make it seem as if you are the one who is not thinking correctly.
She was truly, fiercely committed to the act. Even with four officers surrounding her and questioning her less than a yard away from the store, she remained vigilant in asserting herself as the accosted victim. Her colorful profanities towards the officers dripped with more venom than the stolen sandwich jammed in her yoga pants dripped buffalo sauce. The timeless and inconceivable metaphor of “immovable object” had finally manifested in a physical form, and we were but mere mortals bearing witness to it break the rules of our reality.
That was, at least, until she got cuffed and taken to jail.
I never saw anyone take the initiative to remove the smuggled sandwich from her pants. I doubt anyone ever ate it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she sat on it there for the entire ride to the station. It may still be there to this day, buffalo sauce and onions and all, immutable as the sword of Excalibur.
It was the night I really started believing in the impossible. I could finally make peace with the concepts of “infinite”, “forever”, and “eternal”. I saw something ratchet enough to make me believe that our perception of all things that are up, left, right and down are merely spirited attempts to make sense of what we’ll never really understand.
And that’s okay.
Imagine there’s this person.
And they kinda suck.
We’re talking iPad-surfing-in-the-movies, wait-to-go-forward-in-the-right-turn-lane, root-for-a-team-without-knowing-the-players, parallel-double-park-that-motherfucker-sideways grade of jackass. A modern yet mystical portrait of the unholy union between delusions of grandeur and lack of self awareness.
This is the kind of person that would steal Buddha’s hot pockets and help him look for them.
This person would fake their own kidnapping, send any anonymous tip to their significant other hinting at a false location to find them, and put on a wig to just to sleep with that person’s immediate family.
This person sells an Xbox online for full price and literally sends only the box.
They would steal Power Rangers coloring books from the waiting rooms in children’s hospitals, color everything brown, and put it back.
Entire mountains would be blown away and reduced to rotten cavities in the mouth of Mother Earth just from the sheer force of bullshit erupting from his shameless mouth. They say that you can create an atomic explosion by splitting an atom, but in truth, you could create a more impressive and destructive display by attempting to combine his words and thoughts with human logic. Such a thing was never meant to happen, can never legitimately occur; to divide by the number zero would be less complicated than searching for an inkling of redeem-ability in his qualities.
You may wonder, then, how does no one kick this guy’s ass?
Have you ever seen anyone try to fight the wind? Not like trying not to get blown down the street in a storm, but literally put up their fists and try to do combat with the air around them like it owes them dank weed money. You may be able to get a faint idea of you can visualize the way that twenty something year-olds acted when Four Loko was still made with Satan’s piss and car battery acid in 2005.
There is no stopping this person, because they are not bound to our petty constructs of time and space. They are, and always will be, both all and nothing. They are non-substantial, both an unmovable force and unstoppable object; and infinitely annoying.
Maybe that person has been someone you know? Maybe, when possessed by that person, they decided it would be a good idea to cut across five lanes without looking? Maybe they decided that the entire coffee shop wanted to hear their conversation about that itchy spot they need checked out? Maybe they spilled a drink on you and wanted you to apologize? Maybe they wore an Ed Hardy shirt and hat at the same time?
No matter what it was, you should be grateful.
Because without the little things that bring us face to face with everything we find belligerently bitchy or downright douchey, we would have no reference with which to identify a truly good human being.
With these awful and downright annoying deeds, a bar is raised for the rest of humanity to leap for the purpose of exhibiting true good will.
Our friends will support us as we climb towards ideals of the people we want to be, but our enemies will be the ones who give substance to that ideal, simply by embodying the opposite.
By this person’s existence, we know what a ‘friend’ is in the first place.
Both the saint and the sinner share a symbiotic relationship, a cooperative co-existence that gives neither substance without the prominence of the other.
For every jerk out there that dresses up like a homeless to collect change, there’s someone who donates to the Red Cross every day.
For everyone out there who’s felt like hopping on the elevator to go up a single floor, there is somebody who will go out of their way to make sure everyone on-board has their floor’s button pressed.
For everybody who identifies Lil Wayne or Miley Cyrus as among the greatest artists of all time, there is someone who has heard music.
The next time somebody does or says something that makes you wish a chair to the face was as legal as a high-five, don’t get pissed, but pity.
Pity that there are people consumed by a malicious spirit that makes them do things or think in ways that are so bankrupt of common decency that is makes them appear un-evolved.
More than pity, pray for their recovery. It could be their disposition, it could just be circumstances, and some days, we may find that it could even be us.
Only with compassion and hope for those trapped in the kind of mindset that compels them to act inconsiderately and violently can the disease be cured.
Regardless of what it is, when it comes to embracing what goodness abounds in the world, it doesn’t have to stop at just what’s shiny, rosy or pleasant; even the shadows themselves cannot exist without a superior light allowing them to be cast.
Dirtbags can be fertilizer for the world’s most beautiful plants.
When we see the things that appear negative as reflections of the potential for positivity, things just may look a tad bit brighter.
“It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
“Alcohol may be man’s worst enemy, but the bible says love your enemy.”
― Frank Sinatra
“We always wonder why somebody won’t do something about this or that, and yet ultimately, we are all that somebody.”
I grew up around a lot of people who seemed determined to assert themselves as apart from the ‘norm’. Each of them very much a citizen of their city and our world, but almost an island in spirit. They were constantly surrounded by people and yet seemed so very much on their own, always warping every this and that into something that had to do with themselves.
I’d know, I was one of them.
Despite our survival instinct for self-preservation, we are unarguably social creatures; we were not engineered, biologically, to operate alone like the brown bear or great white shark. We have built everything we know and love together, and yet due to a preoccupation with writing our own stories, we are as separated as we are irreversibly bound.
The bystander effect is when everyone witnesses something in progress, and yet no one does anything, due to the fact that it’s just unthinkable that no one besides themselves would take action. It is an interesting phenomenon in that it combines both our tendency to be self-centered and unconscious faith in others. The bystander typically thinks themselves a moral novelty, someone who is aware of what is right and wrong and sees it as a distinction. Someone who, because of this status, may pass judgment on others for not acting. However, at the same time, as jaded and cynical as people may be about the moral fortitude of others, there is this unflinching belief in the hero. The belief that someone, somewhere, has the right combination of moral attenuation and recklessness to do something that seems completely illogical for the sake of someone else.
It’s not always this dramatic, of course, but it’s ironic. You could say that self-centeredness fuels the bystander effect, but in the faith that somebody else will step out and act, does it say something about an inherent belief people may have in human goodness in spite of it all?
Even if we do not act, that does not equate to doing nothing. Inaction, in and of itself, IS action. Based on whether or not we view those who suffer from the action of withholding assistance, they may be more or less ‘human’ in our eyes and easier to disregard; it’s the same way that soldiers are trained to dissociate the humanity of their enemies from their physical bodies.
We are all, however, immutably connected. Even when alone in a room. Becoming aware of the connection makes us conscious to the will of everyone around us, puts us in perspective, and makes us realize that we are not alone in the moral standards we hold so dear but dare not act on.
And when we decided to be the person that we hope will do something, that’s when the bystander effect is defeated.
Is it always intelligent? Depending on the situation, it may not be. It may be useless or even counter-productive, depending on how things play. A phone call isn’t the same as stepping in front of a loaded barrel, getting in the strike range of a knife, or confronting an unpredictable and upset stranger.
In the age of instant communication with instant access to emergency services, however, no on has to be a hero; that’s because a ‘hero’ implies something intrinsic that separates one person from the rest on a fundamental, unchangeable level. Each of us has equal potential to do something, in some way, at some time. When we all realize that, a hero will stop being a hero and simply be the act of a normal person.