From where you’re standing, what does the world look like?
From where I’m standing, what does the world look like?
We are standing side by side in a crowded room, leaning against the wall maybe, having small talk. At a party. But where are we, really? Where are you and where am I? A brilliant friend once told me that space and time are just concepts created by our brains to help us make sense of all this data, of existence. I’ve often felt that existence was like a soup, and we are all in different parts of the soup. Today I feel like existence is a landscape; what hill are you standing on? What is the view from your hill? From my hill, this is what I see… I could try and explain it to you, and that would be interesting. But still you would be on your own hill, far from me.
It’s lonely on my hill. What is the view like from your hill? Where are you standing? We’re leaning against the wall together, in a crowded room; what do you see?
I think about this question a lot when I write. Who am I writing for? How close are they to me? How far away are they from my hill? If they were standing over there, on the edge of the forest, would they still be able to make out what I’m saying? Or would communication break down completely. How close do you need to be standing, to understand what I’m saying? Am I writing for people floating above me in hot-air balloons? Am I trying to catch the people running on the distant horizon? Am I writing for people right in front of me?
Do you ever know someone and feel like they mirror you? Like somehow they’re standing on the same hill you are, with the same view, only in some sort of parallel reality. Because no-one will ever be in exactly the same spot that you are. Even identical twins, who have identical DNA, begin to become different people in the womb. One is here in the womb, one is over there, so they become different people.
I have a friend who feels to me, right now, like a mirror. Like we are each standing on a hill, but the two hills are like transparencies layered over each other, and there we are, facing one another. And we are holding each other’s hands, and leaning away from each other, and I am looking at this person who is not me and yet it is like looking into a mirror, like looking inside of myself. Like I could be this person, like we occupy the same niche in reality. But that’s not it really; this language assumes the reality is flat in some way. But if reality was flat, how could we both exist? Since reality is like transparencies layered on top of each other here we are, looking at one another, seeing outside and yet inside of our selves.
I am at a party, I am talking. Symbolic language is just that; it is nothing. It is only as good as everything else. This means that; how do we communicate with each other? This exhausts me. I am making small talk, leaning against the wall. I do not know where the other person is, what they see, and why. I don’t know how to make myself understood. I don’t know how to communicate beauty, fear, the things that seem most important. Isn’t all of this important? If it’s not important, then what are we talking about? Is talking not about communicating? Am I always the one being naïve?
Symbolic language is a failure; what’s really going on is anybody’s guess. I’m at a party, why are you even talking to me? What is anybody even saying?
My friend who mirrors me right now somehow magically understands this in a way that is both beautifully eerie and deeply comforting. I see her, I know she exists, her view is the same as mine, does that mean that I exist too? Our transparencies are layered over each other, we can press our hands against the plastic. We can almost touch. Seeing her is like talking to someone on another planet which is nearly identical to mine. It’s rough here on earth, I say. This thing happened.
The same thing happened on my planet too, she says, only on her planet the cows are purple and the sky is green. And it feels special, like having company. And here I was all this time, thinking I was alone in the universe. But her planet is the same as mine, we can talk about it. It doesn’t really matter that the sky is green.
Am I the only one who feels alone in the universe, like this, except for these infrequent moments of companionship? I once read a piece by Miranda July where she talking about feeling like “the most alone person ever”. She had gotten married at some point, she couldn’t believe it. She kept waiting for the marriage to end so that she could go back to being “the most alone person ever”. That is how I feel, I thought. Like I am alone in a little room in my space shuttle, beeping out my morse code to the universe. Seeing the view from my hill, this dramatic and magnificent view, and frantically beeping out my little code, trying to communicate what it is that I’m seeing.
Why are we so alone, and then, sometimes, why are we not?